The preventability of the prevalent diseases plaguing the UAE's population illustrates the general public's ignorance of basic medical matters crucial to healthy living said some of the country's future doctors last week.
Mohammad Sami Moghamis, President of the Emirates Medical Students' Society (EMSS) believes the rate of people suffering from Type 2 diabetes and hypertension can be significantly lowered by raising basic health awareness.
"It is evident communities in the UAE lack the appropriate amount of medical education because most of the prevalent diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and hypertension are preventable," he said. "These diseases are most often caused by people's lifestyle choices, which show patients' lack of basic medical awareness."
EMSS was founded in 2006 at Dubai Medical College (DMC), after it hosted the country's first Medical Students' Conference.
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The conference brings the UAE's medical students together in a research competition to discuss current developments in medicine.
EMSS is a full member of the International Federation of Medical Students' Association, recognised by the World Health Organisation, and serves to unite the UAE's future doctors. EMSS is made up of six committees, one of which is public health, a department responsible for raising public health awareness through campaigns such as anti-smoking, anti-obesity, breast cancer and blood donation.
The proactive committee members of EMSS have made it their mission to develop the UAE's medical community for the benefit of its society, something they believe is a necessity. However, like most change it is proving to be a challenge.
"From my own experience I've found two main challenges for medical students," said Dr Jameel Idris Kasmani, EMSS Supervising Council member. "The first is research and the lack of data and the other is the general public's apprehension towards being examined by medical students."
Dr Kasmani added the public's misconception and misinformation does not allow medical students to learn from them, which is a critical problem the country's future doctors face. "They think they'll be guinea pigs or something, which is a notion very different to that in other parts of the world, where people actively volunteer," he said. "It's all about simple examination and history-taking techniques, something medical students can only learn from patients."
He added the practical element of learning from real-life patients is never invasive as it is unheard of for medical students anywhere in the world to independently consult anyone.
Women in medicine
For Mona Mohammad Faramawy, Vice-President of internal affairs at EMSS, student research is mainly hindered by protocol and endless red tape.
"I am now a fourth year medical student but since my first year I've been trying to conduct Alzheimer's research on the elderly," she said. "But the amount of permissions and approvals required is turning out to be a very big problem."
Mona also believes the sparse female presence in not only the UAE's surgical community but across the entire Arab world is an issue. This is why she has chosen to pursue a career in surgery.
"I chose surgery because as a girl in the Arab region in an Islamic country I've seen a serious female presence lacking in the surgical field," she said. "They are something the Arab world desperately needs."
Yet, the students know change will not come overnight.
"The ideas for change in the student medical community won't happen tomorrow but we are the doctors of the future," said Lina Darwish, EMSS national officer of the Human Rights and Peace Standing Committee. "By EMSS educating medical students and highlighting important issues, transformation will come gradually because once we become doctors we will have the power to transform things."