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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Women Med Students Help at Haj Health Clinics

Saeed Al-Khotani, Arab News

MINA, 26 January 2005 — As pilgrims made their way through the rituals of the Haj this year, they were joined by a pioneering group of women Saudi medical school students who volunteered their time to take care of those in need while sharpening the skills they will need as doctors.
Dr. Taha Al-Khateeb, supervisor general of health centers for the holy sites during Haj 1425, said the program was voluntary and of limited scope this year. He hopes the program would be expanded in coming years, as the women get a chance to provide services in their field of specialization under direct medical supervision.
Despite the challenges, students were excited by the chance to help and got support from their families. “When I raised the subject with my family, I didn’t meet any objection. On the contrary, they encouraged me,” said Muna Ahmad Muhammad Amin, a second-year student at the College of Medicine. “My mom had some reservations, but that’s a normal feeling for mothers.”
For the young student, it was a test of her fortitude. “I came to see, participate, assist, contribute and benefit despite the difficulties that face us during the Haj due to overcrowding and pressure of work,” she said. “If I succumbed to those hardships, I would have returned home as there was nothing to force me to stay.”
She stayed.
For some of the med students, it was more of a family affair. “It never occurred to me that I would be participating in health services during the Haj were it not for the encouragement of my mom who’s a consultant in family medicine. She is participating in the Haj this year as a technical supervisor in the Health Centers Supervision Committee,” said Rana Abdullah Rukn, a fifth-year med student. “Although I had some fears, I was eager to participate, as it’s a great opportunity. It supports the education I receive in the College of Medicine lecture halls.”
Veteran volunteers say it’s a great thing to do each year.
“I was impressed by the idea of working during the Haj even before I joined the College of Medicine, as my father is a doctor in the Ministry of Health and was director general of health centers during Haj,” said Maram Taha Al-Khateeb, a third-year medical student.
“My father works in health services every year during Haj, so I participated even before getting admission in the College of Medicine. This is the third year I’m helping with these services. Whoever comes to participate in the Haj health services for the first time will want to participate again.”
And the young women carry out meaningful tasks in which they have received training, freeing up the professionals for more serious cases.
“I used the opportunity to get acquainted with the nature of work in the health centers in Mina and Muzdalifa,” said Rana Rukn. “I worked in the pharmacy and organized the waiting patients in front of the clinics. I got to watch the doctors checking the patients. I saw cases of lacerations and muscle pain due to walking for long distances as well as severe coughing due to the cold weather.”
Muna Amin also got to work with physicians.
“I organized the waiting patients when there was overcrowding,” she said. “If the situation permitted, I listened to the doctor’s explanations of the simple cases — how to diagnose and treat them as well as prescribe the medicines.”
The more experience the students have, the more help they can offer.
“In view of my past participation , I carried out various duties,” said Maram Al-Khateeb. “Last year, I prepared solutions, gave intramuscular injections and fit oxygen masks. The nurses helped train me. But this year, I started learning how to diagnose the ailments and understand what the patient wants to say even if he cannot speak Arabic.”
The physicians in the clinics realize these young women are going to be the doctors of tomorrow — critically needed throughout the Kingdom — and they use the opportunity to give them every bit of training they can.
“The doctors treat us as their daughters,” said Maram Al-Khateeb said. “They treat us with respect. They provide us with assistance and don’t view us as mere volunteer trainees. The doctors listen to our views and explain what we haven’t understood.”
Although the program is both limited and voluntary, the Ministry of Health shows its appreciation to these trailblazing young women who demonstrate both great courage and commitment to others by volunteering.
“One of the reasons I took part in the program again and urged my colleagues to take part were the letters of thanks and appreciation I received last year from Health Minister Dr. Hamad Al-Manie and Dr. Mansour Al-Hawasi, undersecretary at the Ministry of Health, for my participation during the Haj,” said Maram Al-Khateeb.

Source: Arab News

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