On 16-17 April 2019, the Arab International Women’s Forum was proud to hold a high-level Conference in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) and the American University of Beirut (AUB) in Beirut, Lebanon on Women Leaders & Health: Empowering women leaders in innovation, medical education and healthcare delivery.
Taking forward the momentum that AIWF has created through recent and highly successful STEM-focused initiatives in Amman (Women, Water & Youth in September 2018) and London (Women-Led Innovation in STEM in September 2018), the Women Leaders & Health initiative examined strategies to foster an inclusive and empowering environment for women-led innovation, research and discovery in medicine and healthcare delivery by learning from regional and international best practices and the vital experiences and valuable strategies of women leaders themselves. The Conference was held under the esteemed Patronage of His Excellency Mr Saad Hariri, President of the Council of Ministers, Lebanon, who also delivered the Guest of Honour Keynote Address on this special occasion.
The conference was an outstanding success for AIWF, UMMS, AUB and all valued stakeholders, bringing into focus key challenges and opportunities for women’s leadership in medical education, healthcare delivery, STEM, research, innovation, sustainability and international development and drawing the Arab public and private sectors, international development organisations and institutes, civil society, women and youth together.
The conference programme was greatly enriched by the invaluable input and collaboration of the valued expert colleagues of University of Massachusetts Medical School led by Dr Michael Collins, Chancellor of UMMS, and the American University of Beirut, under the leadership of Dr Fadlo Khuri, AUB President. Women Leaders & Health was also supported by all AIWF Global Partners with special recognition to Pfizer and PwC as Conference Supporting Partners, who share in the AIWF mission for a sustainable and equitable future for Arab women and young people and lent valuable contributions to the development of the conference programme as well as to the implementation of all conference logistics on the ground.
The AIWF Board was proud to have welcomed Distinguished Guest Speakers representing the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the American University of Beirut, St Marks Hospital in London, Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals and King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, among others. The interaction that took place between Distinguished Guest Speakers and participating Delegates, attending from Lebanon, across the MENA Region, the UK, EU and the US, was deeply impactful and highly insightful, as evidenced by the rich recommendations to emerge from the conference discussions. AIWF remains deeply appreciative to all valued and highly accomplished Guest Speakers who generously contributed their time, expertise, invaluable experiences and professional insights to the success of the conference.
The Opening Session was addressed by Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, Founder & Chairman of AIWF; Dr Fadlo Khuri, President of the American University of Beirut; and Dr Mohamed H Sayegh, EVP Raja N Khuri Dean, Faculty of Medicine & Professor of Medicine and Immunology at the American University of Beirut. In her Keynote Address, Mrs Al Kaylani restated the commitment of AIWF to bringing together forward-focused stakeholders at every level to find innovative solutions to a diverse and complex range of empowerment challenges faced within the region and internationally, including women in all STEM sectors. The full day of impactful conference sessions then explored capacity building for women in medicine through technology, training, intra/entrepreneurship, executive leadership and social enterprise. Conference participants also heard the deeply valued reflections of women leaders on meeting the region’s most critical health challenges through cross-border collaboration, capacity building, medical education and initiatives to improve gender diversity in medicine and the health sciences.
The first panel of the day, Transforming medical education for the next generation of women in medicine and health sciences, was chaired by Dr Zeina Kanafani, Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, Hospital Epidemiologist, American University of Beirut Medical Center, Lebanon, and welcomed as Distinguished Guest Speakers Dr Naila Arebi, Consultant Gastroenterologist St Mark’s Hospital and The London Clinic, Chairman of Medicine and Director IBD Service, St Mark’s Hospital, United Kingdom; Dr Zakia Dimassi, Research Associate at the Office of the Associate Dean for Medical Education at the Faculty of Medicine, American University of Beirut, Lebanon; Dr Rana Sharara-Chami, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Pediatric Critical Care, Director, Pediatric Residency Program, Director, Simulation Program, American University of Beirut, Lebanon; and Dr Luanne Thorndyke, Professor of Medicine, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, University of Massachusetts Medical School, United States. The session was dedicated to exploring exciting opportunities for the next generation of women in medicine and the healthcare sciences to engage with world class medical education towards greater inclusion for women in the medical profession in the Arab world and globally.
Panel 2, Advancing women’s leadership and entrepreneurship in healthcare and the sciences, was chaired by AIWF Global Partner and valued Board Member Dr Oualae El Alami, Vice President for Egypt, Levant, Iraq and Iran, Pfizer Biopharmaceutical Group, United Arab Emirates, and was focused on exploring strategies for building capacity for women in medicine through technology, training, intra/entrepreneurship, executive leadership and social enterprise. The session welcomed the valued insights and experiences of Dr Aceel Alanizi, Founder & Director, Luxury Healthstyle & Founder of Wisal, United Kingdom; Lina Nabulsi, Technical Director, Jordanian Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Co, Jordan; Mais Najib, Former Director, Global Head of Health Economics, Stallergenes, France; Dr Rihab Nasr, Associate Professor in the Department of Anatomy, Cell Biology and Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, American University of Beirut, Lebanon; and Dr Lina Oueidat, Advisor to the Prime Minister & National ICT Coordinator, Lebanon.
The final panel of the day, Reflections of women leaders in healthcare and medical education: Mentoring next generation, women-led innovation, discovery and leadership in medicine and health sciences, brought together Arab and international women leaders to elaborate on the impact and potential of women-led innovation and empowering women to deliver viable solutions to the region’s most critical health challenges through cross-border collaboration, capacity building, medical education and initiatives to improve gender diversity in medicine and the health sciences. The panel was chaired by Dr Samia Khoury, Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research, Professor of Neurology and Immunology, American University of Beirut, Lebanon; and was addressed by Nancy Sunna, Senior Medical Manager, Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals, Lebanon; Dr Maha Al Mozaini, Immunocompromised Host Research at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre and Member of the Arab Women Council Board of Trustees, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Dr Muntaha Gharaibeh, Former Member of the Board of Directors of the Healthcare Accreditation Council Jordan; and Dr Janet Hale, Professor of Nursing, Associate Dean of Interprofessional and Community Partnerships at the Graduate School of Nursing, University of Massachusetts Medical School, United States.
A half-day interactive workshop following the conference on 17 April 2019, titled Addressing maternal and child health in conflict/vulnerable settings in the MENA region, welcomed distinguished speakers representing the World Bank, the ESCWA Center for Women, the Ministry of Public Health in Lebanon, the Lebanese Order of Midwives, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Medicins Sans Frontieres. The workshop was opened by Haifa Al Kaylani and chaired by Dr Faysal El-Kak, Vice President of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Health Sciences, American University of Beirut (AUB), Lebanon, Clinical Associate of Obstetrics and Gynecology, AUB Medical Center, Advocate for Women’s Health, Lebanon. Manar Zaitar, Lead Consultant and Project Manager for Women Refugees in the Arab Region, ESCWA Centre for Women, Lebanon, and Nadwa Rafeh, Senior Health Specialist in the Health, Nutrition, and Population Global Practice, Team Leader for the Lebanon Health Resilience Project and the Emergency Primary Healthcare Restoration project for The World Bank in Lebanon, delivered the Opening Keynote Addresses.
The workshop sessions that followed brought together leaders in public service, international development and global advocacy to discuss the impact that the refugee crisis in the MENA has had on women in vulnerable and conflict situations in the region, and to provide insight into how these challenges can be mitigated through multi-level engagement, concerted action and dialogue. Sessions included: Challenges to women’s health and family planning under conflict; Dying by displacement: Vulnerability, maternal mortality and the making of maternal ill health; Interventions that work: Maintaining services at times of donor fatigue, with a concluding discussion titled Towards models of maternal health support, which gathered all panel speakers and specialists together with a high and rich level of extended interactive Q&A from the audience.
AIWF looks forward to carrying the momentum proudly created in Beirut to its next major milestone of the AIWF 2019 Annual Programme, Women as Engines of Economic Growth, to be held in Cairo in September 2019. The Chairman and Board of AIWF convey their deepest appreciation to all distinguished and outstanding Guest Speakers, our Conference Partners and all participating delegates for their valued contributions towards the success of this exceptional conference initiative.