Uzbekistan ambassador visits orphaned teen treated in Memphis; highlights medical, business relations

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 10:30 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The ambassador from the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan came all the way to Memphis Thursday just to say thank you. Surgeons in the Bluff City performed life-saving operations for a 13-year-old orphaned Uzbek girl who had a rare tumor on her face.

This success story is just the latest chapter in fast-growing connections between some of the top institutions in Memphis medicine and the central Asian country.

It was hugs and smiles at FedEx Family House where Shabbona received so much tender, loving care since August.

The ambassador from her home country of Uzbekistan Javlon Vakhabov came to thank healers from Semmes Murphey Clinic and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

“She looks great. Her smile looks great. So everyone is happy,” said Vakhabov.

Shabbona’s sweetened smile serves as one more link in growing Memphis connections to Uzbekistan, a country nearly 7,000 miles from the Mid-South.

This all began when the Uzbek ambassador made visiting Memphis a top priority upon his 2017 arrival in Washington.

“Memphis is the first place I visited after I presented my credentials at the White House,” said Vakhabov.

The diplomat wanted to get here ASAP to convince Memphis businessman, Dan Patterson, to help modernize and mechanize his country’s agricultural economy.

Patterson’s family sold cotton seeds and built relationships in Uzbekistan years ago.

Since 2018, at the Ambassador’s invitation, Patterson’s Memphis-based “Silverleafe International” has helped modernize Uzbek agriculture and also connected the country to the best of Memphis medicine.

“A child from Uzbekistan is as precious as a child from Memphis, Tennessee I would say,” said Dr. Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, St Jude Global Director.

Rodriguez-Galindo has traveled to Uzbekistan twice as the country has become a focal point for fighting pediatric cancer in Central Asia.

“As we say, every child everywhere, wherever there is a child with cancer,” said Rodriguez-Galindo. “Wherever there is a family with a child with cancer --- where is that suffering? We want to be there. But to do that, we need to do it with a partnership with governments, with agencies, with stakeholders to make sure what we build is sustainable.”

The seeds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s success in Uzbekistan have been planted. The country’s growing relationship with the best of Memphis medicine has changed one 13 year old’s life in a dramatic way.

Shabbona returns to Uzbekistan this weekend but the Vakhabov says she intends to learn English and apply for college back here in Memphis.

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