Dear alumni, faculty, participants, and partners:
As we begin this holiday season and reflect on 2020, we at the Office of International Medicine Programs (IMP) are especially grateful for your continued support. The past year has been challenging for all of us as we have confronted the continuing threat of COVID-19. It is thanks to you that we have been able to honor our commitments to our partners and participants from around the world, as well as scale up our efforts to help address the threat of the pandemic on our programming.
Throughout the past year, our team at IMP has been focusing our efforts on designing and reimagining new approaches to international medical education and training to be responsive to the demands of the current moment. This includes the need to offer more virtual programming as we continue to navigate the impacts of COVID-19.
During the summer, we delivered our Summer Research and Medical Enrichment Program in a virtual format for the first time for undergraduate medical students from universities in the Bahamas, Barbados, Ecuador, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea. Under normal circumstances, the students in the summer program would have the chance to travel to the George Washington University (GW) campus in Washington, D.C., to gain exposure to the U.S. medical education system and get hands-on research experience. This year’s online format offered new components in place of in-person activities, including a greater emphasis on professional development opportunities with the support of GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) faculty experts who serve as mentors throughout the program.
We also launched a new initiative at GW – the Virtual Research Training Program – which was available to GW medical students to participate in this past summer. The program, which is led by IMP’s Research Director Fernando Vidal-Vanaclocha, MD, PhD, provides an overview of the principles of precision medicine and helps students develop their skills in precision medicine research procedures. The students in this year’s program acquired valuable knowledge and research skills that will serve them in their future roles as physicians. We are looking forward to offering this virtual program again in the upcoming year for both GW and international medical students.
An article featured in this newsletter highlights additional research that medical students at SMHS have been working on over the course of the past year. Marya Al-Samman, a fourth-year MD student at SMHS, who has been supporting research in emergency medicine is one of the students featured. Daniel Muller, a second-year MD student, has also been contributing to several research projects on topics related to global health and infectious diseases, including a COVID-19 vaccine trial at GW led by a SMHS faculty member.
Looking ahead to the post-pandemic environment, we must continually challenge ourselves to search for innovation, lead with compassion, and course correct when required. We must reconsider our perceptions of progress and prioritize long-term solutions. Most important, we must continue to build upon the strong partnerships we have established with institutions around the world over the past 25 years. IMP is committed to advancing our vision and mission to “Fly the GW flag around the world and bring the world to GW,” that will help lead us toward a future in which we can thrive and take pride.
Thank you as always for staying connected with the Office of International Medicine Programs. On behalf of our team at IMP, I wish you all a joyous holiday season ahead and am looking forward to the day we can meet again in person, hopefully soon.
Huda M. Ayas, EdD ’06, MBA ’98, MHSA ’93
Associate Dean for International Medicine
Executive Director, Office of International Medicine Programs