Rami Algahtani, MD, PGY-IV, chief neurology resident at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), stood in front of a room full of his peers and mentors at the 10th Annual International Medicine Program (IMP) Dinner on October 6, 2017, to tell them his story of coming to the United States and getting to the position he is now in.
When he interviewed with IMP, Algahtani said, “I did not feel like a stranger. They asked me what I wanted to do with my life and they gave me tips for my interview with the Department of Neurology.”
A few months later, he matched into a residency position at GW. He continued to meet with IMP and remarked on how personal each encounter was and the impact the program has had on his own success.
“The success of people is a reflection of the success of the program,” said Algahtani.
Since IMP’s inception in 1994, explained Huda Ayas, EdD ’06, MBA ’98, MHSA ’93, associate dean for international medicine at SMHS and executive director of IMP, “over 13,000 international and GW faculty, staff, students, fellows, residents, and medical professionals, have benefited from our program’s vision and mission.”
In his welcoming remarks, Jeffrey S. Akman, MD ’81, RESD ’85, vice president for health affairs, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, and dean of SMHS, noted President Thomas LeBlanc’s vision for the university, “We aspire to preeminence as a comprehensive global research university.”
He then pointed to the mission for SMHS. “Our [goal] is to serve globally, partner globally, support global efforts, and attract people,” he said. “People come to us from all around the world.”
As Ayas and Akman presented the awards for the evening, it was clear how connected IMP is to the visions for both the university and SMHS.
Akman presented the IMP Faculty Outstanding Service Award to Allen R. Dyer, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at SMHS, for his humanitarian efforts and work as a psychiatrist in promoting global mental health.
Over the summer, Dyer and a group of faculty, students, residents, and research fellows from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences traveled to Greece to provide aid to Syrian refugees. Some who went on that mission to Greece were present at the dinner.
“It’s really exciting that a program [like IMP] does exist,” Dyer said. “To see the residents, students, and fellows that were with us step forward with the preparation the received and meet the challenges that were both technical and personal, and grow from that, was very heartening to me.”
Ayas then presented the IMP Partner Outstanding Service Award to Fernando Vidal-Vanaclocha, MD, PhD, chief science officer at the Catholic University of Valencia School of Medicine in Spain, deputy director of the Valencia Institute of Pathology, and adjunct professor of molecular medicine at SMHS.
Vidal-Vanaclocha has been essential in working with IMP to develop the GW Global Physician-Scientists (GPS) Pathway.
The GPS, as Ayas explained, aims to transform GW’s relationship with Spanish institutions through joint research projects, elevating each institution’s research profile, advancing translational research in biomedicine, and addressing the physician-scientist shortage by providing students with mentored research opportunities.
Vidal-Vanaclocha underscored the importance of partnership, research, and international experience in educating the next generation of medical professionals, “Medicine of the future is probably not what we think it is now. We need to make sure that we are creating physicians for that future.”