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Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Neuro-Rehabilitation Center in Morocco is Changing Lives

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As a teenager playing in the waves in Hawaii, I had a wave crash down on my back. The impact instantly paralyzed me, perhaps out of fear. As I floated beneath the surface of the water my life in a wheelchair flashed in front of my eyes. It was one of the most vivid experiences of my life. Fortunately, I walked away from the experience.

Of course, many people don’t walk away. Some of them don’t have the relative luxury of living in the developed world with access to leading edge treatment and fail to reach their full potential.

Morocco is one such place. There, Mohammed Sbia has launched MAIR in 2015 to provide treatment to people with spinal cord injuries. Zahra Charity is a U.S.-based nonprofit he organized to fund and support MAIR.

He explains, “Lack of neuro-rehabilitation care in Morocco and tragic subsequent, very high level of disabilities and/or death among patient population that is suffering of neurological conditions. Most of these patients would have a normal life if given access to adequate neuro-rehabilitation.”

The impact on individuals is dramatic. “We have helped many patients so far, some of whom are truly amazing medical stories of life-changing recovery,” he says.

Mohammed plans to continue to grow MAIR until it is internationally recognized. He hopes to serve “as many needy patient as possible, while developing education and research programs that will allow significant, long-term improvement of neurological rehabilitative care in Morocco.”

Getting the treatment center financed and built was a big challenge, Mohammed says. “Before the start of MAIR operations, Zahra Charity struggled for six years trying to assemble necessary resources (funds, human resources, equipment and local support). These resources were finally gathered during the year of 2014.”

Initially, only non-paying patients sought treatment at the clinic, he says. “But after few months in operations, capable patients with cash or medical insurances started coming to MAIR for therapy.”

Now the center has a new challenge: exponential growth. Mohammed says the institution needs to expand in scale and scope to meet the increasing demands.

That said, financing remains the biggest limitation to reaching a profitable scale. “Funding is our major limitation. MAIR is not in position to expand its operations right now. More funding will allow it to increase operations, which in turn should bring MAIR closer to financial self-sustainability.”

Mohammad sees the potential to have a significant impact not only on the patients, but on the culture of a country that hasn’t traditionally valued people with neurological problems. “We are giving hope to patients who did not have any hope for recovering from crippling neurological conditions. Most of them will have better, more productive lives because of the therapy they will receive at MAIR. By demonstrating excellent outcomes in a patient population that is being looked down and considered as source of shame or curse, the work of MAIR will ultimately help change a local culture that have very little consideration for patients with neurological disabilities.”

On Thursday, June 30, 2016 at 3:00 Eastern, Mohammed will join me here for a live discussion about the work of Zahra Charity in Morocco and the impact it is having on people there. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Zahra Charity:

Twitter: @zahra_charity

The Zahra Charity(ZC) a US 501-c3 non-profit, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and dedicated to creating access to adequate neuro-rehabilitation services to needy patients in Morocco. Since August 2015, ZC started operating a small clinic, The Moulay Ali Institute for Rehabilitation (MAIR) in the city of Marrakech. MAIR is already gaining positive notoriety by demonstrating excellent rehabilitation outcomes. Hence the exponential growth it is facing now.

Mohammed’s bio:

Dr. Mohammed Sbia is US citizen originally from Morocco where most of his family is currently living. After earning a B.S. in sciences and a coveted scholarship from the University of Cadi Ayyad (Marrakech City, Morocco), he decided to study abroad in pursuit of advanced biomedical research. He chose France where he earned a Ph.D in neurosciences from the University of Paris-XI. His doctorate research work (1989-1994) was inspired by his fascination with the Human brain and it was focused on the molecular mechanisms of neuro-transmission. Specifically, Dr. Sbia studied the molecular mechanism of the Ca++-dependent release of neurotransmitter and its pharmacological regulation in the central nervous system. Some of his broad scientific interests in neurosciences also included the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying memory, learning and neuroplasticity.

Soon after defending his Ph.D dissertation, Dr. Sbia came to the USA and joined the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology (Nutley, NJ). His research there led to the discovery of new Mammalian gene, part of the Vacuolar H+-ATPase complex. This work stimulated Dr. Sbia’s interest in molecular genetics and since then he focused his research interests on chromosome structure, DNA replication, gene transcription as well as cancer biology.

Prior to his Ph.D, Dr. Sbia received a Master Degree in receptor biochemistry from a joined graduate program at the Ecole Normale Superieure of Paris and the University of Paris-XI. Dr. Sbia’s neuroscience research is featured in several international peer-reviewed journals, conferences and meetings.

Currently, Dr. Sbia spend major part of his time teaching at under-graduate and graduate levels in addition to managing a biotech consulting company providing R&D expertise in neurosciences and cancer biology.

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Devin is a journalist, author and speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at!


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