Fostering relationships across borders and between communities is at the center of the Office of International Medicine Programs’ (IMP) mission, and those efforts were reflected at the 9th annual dinner Sept. 22, 2016.
Huda Ayas, Ed.D. ’06, M.B.A. ’98, M.H.S.A. ’93, associate dean for international medicine at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) and executive director of IMP, spoke at the start of the event, thanking students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others for their hard work and commitment to the IMP mission.
The dinner featured an awards presentation, with the Faculty Outstanding Service Award going to Mary C. Ottolini, M.D., M.P.H., M.Ed., professor of pediatrics, vice chair of medical education at Children’s National Health System (Children’s National), and the Partner Outstanding Service Award going to Dr. Mohammed A. Al-Eissa, cultural attaché to the United States for the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia.
Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D. ’81, RESD ’85, vice president for health affairs, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, and dean of SMHS, welcomed the group before Rachel Sarnacki, program coordinator at Children’s National Office of Medical Education, accepted the award on behalf of Ottolini, who was unable to attend the dinner due to a scheduling conflict.
Sarnacki thanked Akman and Ayas for their leadership in the field of international medicine and for the ongoing collaboration with Children’s National education programs. “We’re very grateful for the opportunity to participate in such a synergetic program that benefits all involved,” she said.
Al-Eissa also was unable to be at the dinner due to a prior commitment. Accepting the award was Farid Awanes, senior academic advisor at the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission (SACM) to the United States.
Al-Eissa, Awanes said, wanted to convey his regrets at not being present to accept the award, and thanked all leaders at the SMHS and the program directors and faculty who put their time and effort into providing support and guidance for students.
“Our collaboration with IMP has been tremendous … for the last 10 years, and it [has become] a model for other institutions to follow,” he said.
In his remarks, Akman, called IMP “essential” and noted the important work it does to foster multi-culturalism in SMHS, at GW, and throughout the District of Columbia.
“This program,” he said, “is so much at the heart of who we are as healers, as physicians, as scientists.”
Ayas also spoke about the high residency match rate numbers in the past year for international students in GW’s Medical Research Fellowship Program (MRFP).
“They achieved an 87 percent matching rate into competitive residency programs in the U.S. and Canada,” she said. “Just to put it into perspective, the American medical graduate matching rate was 93.8 percent and all of the international medical graduates for this past year was about 50 percent.”
Nawaf Abaalkhail, M.B.B.S, MRFP ’14, described his experiences at SMHS and the adjustments he’s made since coming to Washington, D.C.
Abaalkhail, like many international students, came to the United States alone and had to sacrifice many things for this experience. He thanked his family for their ongoing support, even though they still call “at really awkward moments,” he said. “1 a.m. 2 a.m. 4 a.m. It’s been three years, the time difference has not changed,” he said to laughter from the crowd.
GW, Abaalkhail added, has allowed him to reach his goal of receiving a medical education in the United States and he said he’s proud to call the university his second home. “I really cannot imagine being somewhere else,” he said.
In addition, Ayas highlighted IMP’s success over the past academic year. She spoke on the increase in applications to all IMP programs, its efforts to increase communication with international alumni as well as the success of the program’s first-ever scientific summit, which took place in Thailand in June 2016.
“Throughout all the success and goals we have achieved this past year, our mission, values, principles remain the same — to cultivate lasting, effective, and multi-faceted global partnerships; to create transformational change in medical education, research, and practice; and to provide life-changing opportunities to not only GW, but to all our international communities,” Ayas said.