Qatar Inaugural Medical Students Conference on Psychiatry and Mental Health

On Saturday 15 February 2020, the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) Working Group on Medical Students, in collaboration with the Qatar Medical Students’ Association (QMSA), Sidra Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine - Qatar (WCM-Q) and Qatar University (QU) held Qatar’s Inaugural Medical Students’ Conference on Psychiatry and Mental Health. The conference was attended by more than 100 participants including medical students, psychiatrists, educators, researchers, and psychologists.


Primarily aimed at medical students, the conference agenda sought not only to promote psychiatry as a potential career choice to medical students, but also to highlight the importance of medical student mental health.


The conference hosted a plethora of guest speakers including:


  • Prof. Afzal Javed, WPA President-Elect.

  • Prof. Muhammad Waqar Azeem, Sidra Medicine’s Chair of Psychiatry Department and WPA Working Group on Medical Students initiative.

  • Prof. Javaid Sheikh, Dean of WCM-Q.

  • Dr. Rashid Zaman, Consultant Psychiatrist and Honorary Fellow at University of Cambridge.

  • Dr. Ahmed Hankir, Academic Clinical Fellow in Psychiatry with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (UK).

  • Dr. Zainab Imam, Adult Psychiatrist -Women’s Mental Health (WMH) at Sidra Medicine, Medical Students Clerkship Director (WMH)

  • Dr. Durre Shahwar, Child & Adolescents Psychiatry (CAMHS) attending at Sidra Medicine, Medical Students Clerkship Director (CAMHS).

  • Dr. Aicha Hind Rifai, Psychiatry Clerkship Director, WCM-Q


Encouraging medical students to pursue psychiatry after their medical training, keynote speaker, Prof. Afzal Javed used his presentation titled “Why Psychiatry?” to highlight the global shortage of - and growing need for - psychiatrists around the world.


Also addressed was the propensity for medical students’ to be "significantly more likely" to suffer from mental illness as compared to the general population. It was noted that it is not only the rate of those suffering that continues to rise globally, but also the rate of burnout amongst residents and physicians.


In addition to the guest presenters, medical students from WCM-Q and QU were also given a platform to share their views. Among them was President of the Qatar Medical Students’ Association, Abdallah Tom who spoke on the topic The Power of Youth.


Six carefully curated workshops aimed to equip medical students with the necessary skills to aid them in their daily lives and to assist them in managing daily stressors. Sessions focused on topics such as emotional intelligence, the role of art and humanities in mental health, and an introduction to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). A roundtable discussion on the different pathways in psychiatry, as well as psychiatric training in different parts of the world such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Qatar was also a congress highlight.


Pre- and post-conference surveys were used to assess the attendees' perception of psychiatry and their understanding of medical student burnout and stigma.


Authors: Abdallah Tom, M.D. Candidate, Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar; President, Qatar Medical Students’ Association (QMSA); and Senior Advisor, Psychiatry Students Interest Group

Aya Youssef, M.D. Candidate, Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar; National Public Health Officer, QMSA. Hania Ibrahim, M.D. Candidate, Weill Cornell Medicine - Qatar; President, Psychiatry Student Interest Group. Ghada Abdelaziz, M.D. Candidate, College of Medicine - Qatar University; National Officer of Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights Including HIV & AIDS, QMSA.

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The WPA is psychiatry’s global association representing 140 psychiatric societies in 120 countries, and bringing together more than 250,000 psychiatrists.  It promotes collaborative work in psychiatry through its 70+ scientific sections, education programs, publications and events. 
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