"I really, really like Detroit":
Nicholas Mukhtar, catalyst for change
For the last several years, Detroit has been the focal point of the Great Recession: events like the government bailout of GM and Chrysler, the abandoned building tourism industry, and the city’s declaration of bankruptcy have all received an abundance of media attention.
Despite this, bright hopefuls still aim to make positive change happen for Detroit and its residents. CAAP recently sat down with Nicholas Mukhtar, founder of nonprofit Healthy Detroit. Nick is a second-generation Iraqi-American, aspiring surgeon, and is fairly close to finishing his Master’s of Public Health.
Overcoming significant obstacles and ignoring derision from voices that told him not to “waste his time on Detroit,” Nicholas Mukhtar saw an opportunity to collaborate with government and nonprofit entities, as well as Detroit citizens, in order to form a new, health-centered nonprofit.
CAAP: Tell us a little bit about your organization.
Nicholas Mukhtar: Healthy Detroit is the first organization in the U.S. to act on the federal government’s National Prevention Strategy. Healthy Detroit aims to provide education and resources to the citizens of Detroit in order to empower residents to make healthy choices.
We are currently in the planning stages of a “Healthy Detroit schools” curriculum, and we anticipate the groundbreaking of a major “healthpark” initiative. We’re looking at a 3 year building process, which will result in innovative recreation centers in 7 Detroit districts that incorporate preventative care measures, and will be staffed by medical students.
CAAP: What have been some major successes and challenges with forming Healthy Detroit?
NM: Overwhelmingly, we have had success in working with great partners, including individuals, schools, nonprofits, and government entities. I feel like this is a perfect time for Healthy Detroit to begin to solve problems.
One challenge would be learning how to be a CEO and the many demands that come with the position; there is a lot that goes into running a successful nonprofit beyond just helping people.
CAAP: Who or what inspired you to get into this work?
NM: I believe we can save a lot of lives without cutting people open. My mom is a major inspiration, she’s been battling cancer for 12 years. My dad, an immigrant, encouraged me to work hard for my dreams.
Also, I really, really like Detroit.
CAAP: We believe that a philanthropist is anyone who gives their time, talent or treasure to a cause. Do you see yourself as a philanthropist?
NM: I do see myself as a social entrepreneur and a philanthropist. I believe that if you can help, you should. Even though Detroit’s issues are bigger than me, you take what’s there and you work with it.
We look forward to hearing more from Nick and Healthy Detroit soon! Learn more about Healthy Detroit by visiting their website.
Center for Arab American Philanthropy
2651 Saulino Ct.
Dearborn, MI 48120