Two homes: Sudanese-Irish doctors and giving back
It was apparent during a recent conference on the migration of Sudanese doctors that Sudan may be out of sight for many, but it is definitely not out of mind.
On June 9th, 2012, the Sudanese Medical Association (UK & Ireland), hosted a conference titled Migration of Sudanese Doctors: Dynamics and Opportunities in Galway. The fourth international conference for the SMA, the first in Ireland, brought together health professionals from both Sudan and Ireland, including Sudan’s Federal Minister of Health, Mr. Bahar Idriss Abugarda with the objective to highlight the significance and impact of Sudanese doctors’ migration.
The SMA is an independent, non-governmental academic organisation that formed in 2010 with the objective to upgrade health services in Sudan through collaboration and integration of teams in both Europe and Sudan. Throughout the conference members of the SMA were eager to participate, discuss and share ideas on how to give back to the health sector in Sudan.
During his opening address, Dr. Mahir Hamed, President of the SMA, asked “How can we help junior doctors in Sudan and Ireland?” Annual commitments to work for several months in a Sudanese hospital or to teach in medical schools in Sudan were briefly discussed. Exchange programs or initiatives to bring Sudanese medical students to learn for a period of time in Ireland also gained support from the conference attendees.
Notions of assisting in policy development or medical school curriculum that can draw on the experiences of seasoned Sudanese-Irish professionals were discussed. Also, the idea of researchers using Sudan as a setting to conduct large scale studies was brought up during the working group session. This not only provides researchers with large population samples, but would assist in increasing local capacities by training individuals to be members of research teams.
However, discussions were not limited to Sudan. The SMA is happy to extend their work to all countries in need, first and foremost South Sudan. As brought up several times throughout the conference, SMA’s lack of political affiliation allows for collaboration with different countries and institutions.
Though discussions were mostly held around what more can the SMA do to support Sudan’s health service, it is important to acknowledge current contributions from its members and other Sudanese-Irish doctors.
A study by Ms. Nuha Ibrahim found that on average doctors that migrated to Ireland support 5 family members back in Sudan. Many migrated doctors, along with providing financial support, contribute to strengthening Sudan’s health sector. Efforts to increase training for medical students and other health staff are already underway as evidenced by the Sudan Health Library, an online database that Dr. Abobakr Shadad states provides educational resources and facilitates collaboration and sharing of experiences between peers and instructors worldwide.
The desire to assist Sudan and its medical professionals doesn’t conform to a yearly allotted travel time-frame or a set amount of weekly hours devoted to programme development. Most Sudanese-Irish doctors, 89% according to Ms. Ibrahim, eventually want to move back to Sudan. Efforts being taken by many doctors currently living in Ireland are ways to stay connected and do as much as possible until they permanently return back to Sudan.
Regardless of where many Sudanese-Irish doctors are located, one thing is for sure: neither Sudan nor Ireland are ever far from their thoughts. As stated by Dr. Shadad, “We are half Irish, half Sudanese. Our children are Irish. That is our country. This is our country”.
This article was written as part of a series of articles written by the Key Correspondent Team (KC Team) covering the Migration of Sudanese Doctors: Dynamics & Opportunities Conference
For more information on the KC Team go to: www.keycorrespondents.org