A voice from Syria: the positive prospect of clinical research despite the excruciating circumstances

IFMSA GLobe 2017_

(IFMSA, 2017)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr Alexey Youssef, a 6th year M.D student in Tishreen University, Lattakia, Syria. He is also affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

It is fairly logical to consider six years of civil war as the demise of any academic development. However, Syrian medical students and doctors have proved that wrong. With the help of many local and international factors they were able to overcome the tremendous limitations imposed by the unfortunate situation.

In this article I will mention some of the most evident limitations, discuss the afore-mentioned factors, and highlight some of what have been locally done.

Limitations have been numerous during this period. During the past years, there has been numerous travel and VISA bans for Syrian student. This, in addition to the financial difficulties created by war, made the dream of continuing study abroad impossible for the vast majority of student. In turn, this strenuous reality and uncertain future created a noticeable mental burden on many students. Clinical depression levels boomed among medical student, and this in turn countered any possible academic development.

Publishing wise, the poor financial situation and sanctions imposed evident hardship. Journal processing or international conferences registration fee became unpayable. Mainly, because the amount was no longer affordable for students, and because of the inability to make money transactions from Syria. Finally, many academics have left the country which actually deprived many students of essential mentors. Evidently, this is a strenuous reality. Who can think of research in these circumstances. However, nothing is absolute.

Many factors have helped Syrian students overcome these limitations. These can be classified to international and local ones. The international factors have played a major role by partially replacing the lost qualified mentors. The online research courses had a great impact because they provided much-needed quality education.

Two Courses should be mentioned in this regards. The Syrian American Medical Association research courses and the NIH-IPPCR course. This year the IPPCR course was hosted by SMSA all around Syria in Tishreen, Damascus, and Aleppo Universities. In addition, other factors like the free open access provided by some of the journals, motivated medical students to publish.

Local factors have also played a major role. Medical students have shown a great team work spirit and cooperation to overcome the difficulties. Working in Volunteer teams, they have relied on motivation and peer-education to empower their fellow medical students through research groups, conferences, and workshops.

With each new publication students became more and more motivated. They started forgetting about the difficulties and focusing on being proactive and productive.

Interestingly, everything has changed in the recent year. We have witnessed a boom in the number of medical students’ publications. In the current moment, I can confidently say that research has moved from a small-sized idea to a faculty-wide, ever-increasing trend.

The upcoming years will unveil the talents and will power of Syrian medical students.

About the author

Alexey is a 6th year M.D student in Tishreen University, Lattakia, Syria. IFMSA wise, he is the president and founder of the Syrian Medical Students Association SMSA-Tishreen local committee that officially represents his university in the IFMSA. He is deeply interested in research. He has 1 peer-reviewed publication and 4 ongoing research projects. To locally empower research, he has hosted the IPPCR course in his university and has created a cooperative research team. One of the prominent projects he is working on, is a quality improvement project that aims to locally empower hand hygiene practices at his university’s hospital.

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