Durban medical boffin to serve on organizing committee of WHO conference

By Sana Ebrahim

Second-year medical student Mohamed Hoosen Suleman believes that “medicine is a calling by the Almighty to use our skills and knowledge to improve the lives of others.”

Suleman is enrolled at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in Durban. He has displayed exceptional academic potential with a history of achieving excellence at UKZN.

In March 2020, Suleman was selected by the United Kingdom World Health Organization (WHO) Central Committee to serve on the London World Health Organization Organizing Committee. “I am honoured with the opportunity to work with medical and public health students from the UK, Germany, Spain, Sri Lanka and other countries to plan a conference in November in London,” he said.

The “London WHO Simulation” is an educational event aimed at bringing together students, alumni and health professionals from various disciplines to discuss and robustly engage on a predefined theme that relates to global health, its impact, the challenges and the solutions thereof. The gathering will have representation from WHO ambassadors, member states, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), media outlets and pharmaceutical companies.

The conference is set to host between 180 and 200 delegates. However, due to Covid-19 the format might change to a virtual conference.

Suleman’s role as Theme Officer entails conducting research on current global health topics in line with the World Health Assembly agenda for 2020. Topics include those that are most relevant to current challenges that threaten health security. The research will be discussed with other team members through online meetings (once every two weeks) and a theme guide is then drafted.

The theme guide is compiled for participants and delegates, to outline the agenda and subthemes for the discussions and debates. Dialogues will be centered on analysing policies and systems that countries/organisations have in response to the theme that is decided on by the Organizing Committee.

Preparations are well underway in relation to the theme topic: Pandemics: Preparedness, Response and Recovery. Subtopics include: Universal Health Coverage; One Health; Health Communication in times of Pandemics; Fake News and Misinformation.

He said topics also include “vaccines and its availability and acceptability and many other issues that relate to how countries prepare, respond and recover from pandemics”.

Infections

“For a week in November 2019, I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to the WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. I had been taken on a brief tour of the building and had also been introduced to leading experts and high-level academics at the WHO. I had the privilege of speaking with scientists and senior members of the WHO in various fields including public health, infectious diseases, behavioural science, and epidemiology.

“At the WHO Headquarters, I had been given special access to the WHO Emergency Operations Room of which access is strictly limited. The WHO Emergency Operations Room is a strategic health centre that contains vital and delicate information in relation to health matters of every country. These include disease outbreaks and reported incidences of infections that are then analysed and investigated by experts at the WHO,” said Suleman.

His interest in medicine and assisting people with respect to their health-related needs is attributed to a desire to improve the lives of people. “As a youth that is driven by passion and curiosity, I intend to deeply understand how disease ailments affect the livelihood of the general population. Being able to assist the needy and less fortunate is a privilege to hold in high regard.

I wanted to understand how the body works in relation to the physiological mechanisms and biochemical reactions internally. I believe if we can understand this, then we would appreciate life itself. So, I had decided to enter into the health sciences field.”

In 2018, Suleman graduated in Pharmacy with Honours summa cum laude at UKZN. He is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. He is a Research Placement at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA). “I have a keen interest in research related to HIV/AIDS. I am also involved in dermatology research with the Dean and Head of School of Clinical Medicine at UKZN, Prof Ncoza Dlova. Our research is on Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia (FFA) in African Women. We are currently investigating the gene that causes central hair loss in women, particularly African women.”

Suleman’s advice for aspirant young professionals is to “surround yourself with successful people. You are the average of the five people that you surround yourself with. It is imperative that in the interest of self-betterment and personal development, you interact with people who are passionate and determined to always want to achieve more.”

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