Saudi author, endodontist receives UI alumni award

Rajaa Alsanea

Rajaa Abdullah al-Sanea (click on image for larger size)

Rajaa Abdullah al-Sanea, a 2008 graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, has received the 2013 University of Illinois Alumni Achievement Award for her contributions to the institution, Chicago, and the world.

Al-Sanea, a practicing endodontist and best-selling author in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was honored at the University of Illinois Alumni Association’s annual Alumni Five dinner and awards ceremony on Oct. 11.

“This year’s honorees reflect all that is great about UIC,” Alumni Association President and CEO Loren R. Taylor told the audience of 250. “Their stories inspire all of us and enhance the proud legacy of the University of Illinois.”

A Muslim writer, al-Sanea achieved acclaim through her first novel, “Girls of Riyadh.” Originally released in Arabic in 2005 and in English two years later, it tells the story of a young woman who relates her girlfriends’ stories through e-mail messages. The fictional account of four young Saudi Arabian women dared to challenge the traditions of Arab society and draw attention to inequalities between men and women.

Due to its controversial nature, it was immediately banned in Saudi Arabia. It was circulated through black market copies, but after four months al-Sanea received permission for it to be sold legally in the country.

Al-Sanea has been named among Arab Business’ Power 500: The World’s Most Influential Arabs in 2012; 2008 Woman of the Year by Al Arabiya news channel; and 2007 Cultural Figure of the Year and 2006 Intellectual Figure of the Year in the Arab world by Elaph, a top Arabic online newspaper.

Al-Sanea received a master’s degree in oral sciences from UIC in 2008. Along with her writing career, she serves as a consultant endodontist and researcher in the stem cell therapy program at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh.

The UI Alumni Association is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization for nearly 700,000 alumni throughout the world who attended the University of Illinois, with campuses in Chicago, Springfield and Urbana-Champaign.

UIC ranks among the nation’s leading research universities and is Chicago’s largest university with 27,500 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state’s major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world.

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