Efroim G. Gurman is a man of many talents. A scientist, professor, and inventor, Efroim manages a veterinary clinic in Brooklyn and is the founder of Vet Vittles, a line of “pet candy” that is actually healthy for animals. Efroim recently attended a scientific conference in Uzbekistan where he discussed health related issues at a university, especially pertaining to the ancient issue of starvation and the current problem with obesity and fatty, unhealthy, food.
Efroim discussed this successful and enlightening trip—and his plans to continue working with international partners in 2020 and beyond—via a recent exclusive interview.
MM: I know that recently you went to Uzbekistan to participate in an important scientific conference there. What was discussed there and how did you find the experience?
EG: I was invited to take part in a significant international event organized by FAO under UN patronage. It took place at Samarkand University in Uzbekistan. For many years—until the new President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirzoyev became the head of this Central Asia state—most foreigners were prohibited to enter the country. Under the leadership of the new president great changes happened in this country and the international conference there became possible. This event was the first of its kind. Scientists from 12 countries arrived and representatives of scientific elite of Central Asia were there. The opening ceremony started by governor E.O.Turdimov and Chief of Uzbekistan branch of FAO UN Mr. A. Shukurov speeches.
My visit there was motivated by a search for meaningful business possibilities there and scientific meaning of the gathering of renownEd scientists which involved in a solution of a very important problem – food safety for humanity. Besides that, I felt a certain curiosity: since my PhD fellowship I have several good friends there who invited me many times, but until recently it was impossible to go there. My special thanks to academician Bakriddin Zaripov who invited me and assisted at all steps of this trip.
MM: What was your particular interest at this conference? What was your presentation devoted to?
EG: When I first planned to go there I expected that the main subject of discussion would be about limited sources of food, starvation and themes alike. I’m not a big fan of this pretty old problem. Actually, being an American, my main concern was somewhat opposite – obesity, poor quality of commercial food in industrial countries and other things, which are also closely related with food safety but more common here than somewhere in Africa. I was afraid to be misunderstood there but unexpectedly my presentation was accepted with the great enthusiasm. Sincere interest to my idea inspired me to go in this direction in my research even more than it was before my trip. For a while I was working on dietary supplements which have to compensate defects of nutrition in an industrial era and the most significant ideas about that were presented to my colleagues the first time. After getting support from such highly qualified critics I even start working on a proper monograph on the subject.
MM: I see your personal satisfaction from this trip because of success of your report there. Was there something else, more common?
EG: Yes, first of all beside business and science, I was impressed with the openness of this country to Western people. Uzbekistan is a mostly Muslim state and I think there are not so many countries where American people can travel as safely as there. There a lot of places of interest connected with early steps of Muslim civilization and often next to mosque you will see church and synagogue. People there are very friendly. In a city, towns and even villages you will not see a women covered with burka.
Special interest for me there was beautiful ancient palaces like 1.5 millennium old. Their buildings are restored and they keep these place in a good shape. What surprised me the most is that the majority of the buildings were erected for scientific and educational purposes. We used to think that these Muslim states are less advanced in modern technology, science and entrepreneurship, but here I saw that willingness to learn, to study and to discover were actual priority of this people. Even more, Uzbekistan is the country of young people, teenagers and young people are everywhere. And most of them desire education. For the country with such young population the education is problem # 1. A lot of young people there speak English as well as previous generations who speak Russian. Any University or College there have a high competition of applicants. Many applicants go to foreign countries to get an education and it seems to me the majority of these students will come back to apply their skills at their native state. It seems to me that the host of the conference – Samarkand National University—makes a lot of strides in this direction.
MM: What is so special at this University?
EG: First of all, this university is one of the oldest at this part of the world. It is located at the center of the city on a nice boulevard. The head of the University is very interesting person. Under the previous President professor R.I. Halmuradov was pushed to work at the lowest position at agricultural firm because of his political activity. Now rector SNU R.I. Halmuradovtries to make up lost years. He is full of ideas and initiates very positive changes in University development. I am a big fan of his ideas regarding how this University can jump into a new era according modern realities. We had a very productive conversation about that. Even the best rector can’t do much himself. He has a great team of co-thinkers; for instance, the dean of biological department professor H. Keldiyarov, head of physiological division prof. M.S. Kuziev, and others.
Governmental programs in a field of education and science for the next few years demands to make SNU to be a flagman in these fields. SNU has to reach place among 500 best institutions at the rank of international renowned organizations (Quacquareli Symonds World University Ranking, Times Higher Education or Academic Ranking of the World Universities) and I hope it will be done.
MM: Do you expect the continuation of joint work with colleagues there after your return back?
EG: Yes, of course. We are now in constant communication with professor staff there. Some activities will be done in cooperation. For instance, we made the first steps in mutual efforts to help students here and there to improve their knowledge and skills. Biological department of SNU taking action to create well equipped laboratories for pharmaceutical research in cooperation with US companies. Particularly my company VetVittles LLC plans to deep research in the areas of dietary supplements for pets and the first results of that are obtained already – a few new herbal supplements and supplements based on colostrum soon will be presented!