UKZN’s star 5th-year medical student flies to Geneva for high-level WHO meeting

Mohamed Hoosen Suleman in Copenhagen, Denmark. Picture: Supplied

Mohamed Hoosen Suleman in Copenhagen, Denmark. Picture: Supplied

Published May 15, 2023


Durban — University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) medical student Mohamed Hoosen Suleman is flying to Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday to attend a World Health Organization's (WHO) high-level meeting.

Suleman was invited as the official South African youth delegate where he will attend the Youth PreWorld Health Assembly (PreWHA) and World Health Assembly (WHA) hosted at the WHO headquarters.

He was expected to spend three weeks in Switzerland but requested an earlier return on May 30, 2023, due to academic commitments and exams in Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

Suleman is a fifth-year medical student at UKZN’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine in Durban, and has received multiple awards and accolades in the medical field.

The WHA is the WHO’s highest decision-making body meeting attended by world leaders and delegations of its 194-member states.

Attendance at the WHO headquarters is strictly by invitation. A detailed agenda on global health is discussed with a plan of action on priority health areas that countries should focus on, is decided at the meeting.

The WHA will focus on pressing globally relevant health issues, and the WHO’s explore the four key pillars of the meeting.

These include how the WHO could provide more effective and efficient support to countries; global guidance on the protection from health emergencies; the adoption and implementation of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) policies and advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 of Good Health and Well-Being.

Suleman said he is honoured to be chosen for the event and he commits to high levels of engagement with leading experts in the field of medicine.

“I am deeply honoured to be shortlisted to attend the meeting and make some contribution to discussions on healthcare policy and diplomacy. An interesting area for me would be discussions relating to the Pandemic Accord proposed by the WHO on preparedness, response, and recovery to disease outbreaks and whether or not this international instrument will be accepted by many countries,” Suleman said.

He said he looks forward to the robust discussions and dialogue with like-minded individuals from different parts of the world.

Mohamed Hoosen Suleman. Picture: Supplied.

UKZN associate professor at the School of Clinical Medicine, Professor Andrew Ross, said: “The department of Medicine at UKZN is absolutely thrilled to learn that Suleman has been selected to attend the World Health Organization’s highest decision-making body meeting in Geneva.

“We wish him well and we fully support his efforts to ensure that healthcare can be improved, particularly on the African continent. Mr Suleman is commended for his efforts in pursuing academic excellence and I encourage all students to follow in his footsteps.

“He continues to inspire colleagues within the faculty. We will also ask Suleman upon his return from Geneva to present to the department of medicine on the outcomes of discussions at the WHO’s headquarters.”

Last year, Suleman was one of only three medical students globally to be selected for the prestigious WHO Changemaker Scholarship. He is well-regarded and well-respected for his display of academic excellence and intellectual prowess.

He will be engaging in scientific discussions in line with the WHA agenda, and how it translates to policymaking and healthcare decision-making. Resolutions adopted at the meeting will subsequently be shared as policy documents with all WHO-member states as guidance on priority health issues for the next 12 months.

The youth delegation to the WHO, which include Suleman and other members of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Association, will be submitting nine official statements. These include the following topics:

  • Health systems resilience and strengthening.
  • Health emergencies and pandemic preparedness.
  • Prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.
  • Sexual and reproductive health, women and adolescent health.
  • Human rights, peace, and health.
  • Infectious diseases.
  • One health and planetary health.
  • Health innovation, research and technology.
  • Meaningful youth engagement.
President-elect of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Robert Skov and Mohamed Hoosen Suleman. Picture: Supplied

Suleman makes this trip after returning from Denmark where he was invited as a delegate to the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease (ESCMID) Conference.

He was granted special leave by UKZN’s School of Clinical Medicine to attend both international meetings and contribute to the discussions related to health policy and diplomacy.

Speaking about the ESCMID Conference in Denmark last month, Suleman said he was deeply honoured to be granted the opportunity.

“I am deeply grateful to have been selected to attend the conference and discuss current and future developments in the fight against infectious diseases.

“This has been an area of interest to me, and this served as an opportunity to appreciate the complexity of the evolving epidemic of infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance.

“I will discuss further with the Department of Health in South Africa on the take-home messages that I was able to grasp. Antimicrobial resistance is also an area that warrants urgent attention if we are to safeguard the health and well-being of our population,” Suleman said.

He also attended the WHO-ESCMID Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) on April 14, 2023. The meeting focused on key policies and strategies in relation to reducing the global burden of AMR, and was attended by some of the world’s leading minds in the field of AMR.

A broad range of topics was covered at the conference. These included research related to syndromic testing for infectious diseases in resource-limited settings such as LMICs, diagnostics, management of infectious diseases in immunocompromised patients

Other tops were: infection prevention and control, Covid-19 and Long-Covid, novel antibiotic use, metagenomic sequencing and its use in early detection of AMR, lessons learned from Covid-19 and Monkeypox disease outbreaks, genomic surveillance, artificial intelligence and its use in diagnostics, vaccinations, monoclonal antibodies, HIV/Aids, influenza, other bacterial and viral infections, tuberculosis, Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, social and structural determinants of health, as well as the relationship between politics and health.

Suleman was also shortlisted for the annual International Association of Medical Science Conference in Cancun, Mexico, from June 10 to 13, 2023, but is unable to physically attend due to medical school exams in Pietermaritzburg.

UKZN bestowed on him a double award for the past two consecutive years as the “Best Student Researcher and Best Student Innovator”.

Suleman is also an editorial board member for the International Journal of Medical Students (IJMS). He is officially counted among the Top 200 Young South Africans by the Mail and Guardian.

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