LONDON: Members of an organization for the Egyptian medical community in the UK got together for their first iftar meal in two years. They had been forced to put their annual Ramadan tradition on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Egypt’s ambassador to the UK joined about 75 members of the Egyptian Medical Society at the event, as they gathered at a restaurant in central London to break their fast together.
“We are trying to do more activities now because our organization was a bit quiet during COVID and we didn’t do much,” Dr. Dia Kamel, the president of the society, told Arab News.
“But now we are trying to catch up and we’re trying to focus on helping the poor and charitable work and how to (improve medical care) in Egypt and here as well.”
Almost 4,000 of about 7,500 Egyptian doctors who work in Britain are members of the EMS. However the total membership of the society currently stands at about 6,000 because it also welcomes doctors from Arab countries, and some who work in other professions.
The society resumed its annual activities in July last year when pandemic restrictions began to be lifted in England, after what Kamel described as a “difficult” two years. Now he and the members are looking to the future.
“Our goal (is) to bring together all Arab doctors working in the UK, as well as Egyptians,” he said. “We are in the UK and we’re not based in our home country, so we consider any Middle Eastern colleagues our friends; they are welcome.”
Kamel, who is a pathology consultant and professor at Anglia Ruskin University in Essex, said the EMS organizes charitable events and contributes in particular to Egypt, in addition to the Arab world.
“We organize several scientific events where Arab doctors meet and exchange the latest information and ideas, especially with regard to licensing and legalization and how they can practice safely in the UK, which is very important,” he said.
After serving as secretary of the EMS for five years, Kamel was elected its president seven months ago. Under former leaderships, he said that only the most senior members had a say in how the society was run, but he wants to open it up and make it more democratic and inclusive so that all members, even the most junior, have a say.
“I’m trying to focus on all classes of Egyptian doctors who are working in the UK,” he added. “At the same time we’ll try to focus on how to help and how to really be influential in setting the standards in medical practice in many countries in the Middle East including, of course, Egypt.”
The society was founded in 1985 and its activities are predominantly based in and around London. However Kamel said he plans to organize more events outside of the English capital so that members can meet their colleagues working in the North of England, in places such as Manchester and Hull, as well as in the West Midlands.
The EMS annual calendar of events kicked off this year by marking the Coptic Christmas on Jan. 7, the day Orthodox Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. Each spring the society holds an afternoon tea gathering, and an iftar during Ramadan. It also organizes a scientific conference and during the summer it arranges a cruise along the River Thames.
In between these big events the society organizes various other activities focusing on food, poetry, music or art. It holds its annual general meeting in November each year, when elections are held.
“We are a registered charitable organization in the UK and we’re raising money to help hospitals in the Arab world and poorer countries,” Kamel said. “We have been to Sudan, we have been to Egypt several times, to Syria, and we even try to send people on voluntary missions to help the people in the Middle East.”
Some of the society’s projects are ongoing, he added, such as advising on COVID-19 protocols, while others are funded through auctions or gifts from wealthy Egyptian donors, such as Egyptian-British businessman Assem Allam, former owner of English Football League Championship club Hull City.
“We try to focus on the charity work, how to help each other and how to educate each other, and mainly to focus on the doctors working here and the doctors in Egypt and in the Arab world,” said Kamel.
He added that Egyptian and Arab doctors are “privileged” to be able to work in the UK as they learn about the latest medical developments and advances, and can pass that knowledge on to their colleagues elsewhere.