The Palestine Update!
In April the OxPal team set off on our annual field trip to Palestine. In just 6 days we were able to deliver over 10 training sessions to medical students from Al Quds and An-Najah Universities, and health professionals from across the region. It was a whirlwind trip of the West Bank where we met face to face with many of the students already involved in our programme and laid the groundwork for new and exciting projects!
Sessions included case-based and bedside teaching in neurology and ophthalmology to complement those given throughout the year. For the 2nd year running, we also delivered a peer-tutoring session, modified from a model used in Oxford University where final year clinical students teach their fourth year colleagues. This allows consolidation of learning for everyone involved in an open, semi-formal environment, which has been shown to be an effective way of improving clinical skills. Most excitingly, we also piloted some new projects which were very well received.
1) Research Development
Dr Imran Qureshi, the founder of Doctors Advancing Patient Safety (http://dapsglobal.com/) led two workshops in Quality Improvement – how to formulate questions and conduct clinical research to improve patient outcomes in local hospitals. Dr Fahd Baig also ran two sessions on critical appraisal of randomized controlled trials. Both of these received good feedback from students and professionals. Students said they learned:
“How to read an article in a proper and systematic way”…“how to work in a group and discuss ideas between different minds” and “[how] to know when a published paper is valuable to my work as a physician and when it’s not” .
Following the success of these workshops we are now working to elaborate them into full online modules to help develop research skills in the region.
2) Postgraduate Mental Health Training
An exciting new direction came in the form of a postgraduate training session in child psychiatry, forensic psychology and clinical psychology. Working in conjunction with the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the International Medical Education Trust, Dr Hasanen Al-Taiar, Dr Leslie Scarth and Dr Aiyesha Malik ran sessions in Ramallah with practicing healthcare professionals. Following this they were involved in a case presentation and discussion with doctors from Bethlehem Mental Hospital. Here the OxPal team were able to offer their experience in medico-legal report writing and clinical psychology perspectives to a complex case, as well as learn more about the Palestinian context and issues facing mental health professionals and patients there.
These sessions were seen as very valuable and OxPal was incredibly happy to then meet with representatives from the UN Relief and Works Agency and Juzoor. Here we learned of their flagship programme to strengthen mental health worker capacity at a primary healthcare level, which is an urgent need not just in Palestine, but in conflict settings throughout the Middle East. As an organisation we strive to ensure our services match the need of our users – healthcare workers and the local population. Therefore liaising with these organisations who have such a strong and intricate knowledge of the situation in Palestine and the current needs will inform our own interventions in the future.
Arguably the best part for the team was the chance to meet the university staff and students who make the OxPal programme what it is. We were incredibly proud to receive overwhelmingly positive feedback as well as ideas for future changes (mostly to do with more sessions!). Perhaps more importantly we got to meet with students, making and strengthening friendships. As the Oxpal Chairman Dr Imran Mahmud said:
“This trip was particularly important because it allowed us to build relationships with new partners to take forward over the coming year”
We explored Hebron, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Nablus together, with lots of food and laughter along the way. Not only were these experiences fun in themselves, but feeling a friendly connection to our Palestinian colleagues massively strengthened our commitment to the work we’re doing. We’d like to thank our funders the Al-Quds Foundation for Medical Schools and the International Medical Education Trust for helping make this possible. We’re incredibly inspired by our time there and excited for what the future holds!
Make sure you keep in touch by following us at @Ox_Pal for updates!