UKZN Medical Students Inspired by Ebola Crisis Philanthropist
The power of Medical students as change agents was debated on UKZN’s Medical campus after an enthralling testimony by the President of the Sierra Leone Medical Students’ Association (SLeMSA) and the co-ordinator of the country’s Kick Ebola out Campaign, Dr Asad Naveed.
The Director-General of South Africa’s Department of Health, Ms Precious Matsoso, congratulated Naveed on his work and said Medical students had an important role to play in social accountability, health advocacy and promotion in their respective countries. South Africa was serious about involving medical students in the department’s health programmes, she said.
Naveed’s visit to UKZN was organised by the Clinical and Professional Practice Research Group in the School of Clinical Medicine which is funded by UKZN’s MEPI Project together with the University’s branch of the South African Medical Students Association (SAMSA). He said he was inspired by UKZN Medical student, Mr Vikar Singh of SAMSA, to become a change agent in Sierra Leone after they met at a conference.
In the Kick Ebola Out campaign, Asad collaborated with medical students worldwide to raise funds, advocate and create strategies in the fight against Ebola. This project involved taking risks and doing Ebola preventive awareness campaigns in Freetown, Sierra Leone where Ebola cases were soaring.
The campaign led to the development of a mobile App for Ebola prevention education which is available to Android and Apple users. It also informed a policy statement by the International Federation of Medical Students Associations.
At the moment, Asad is leading the Ebola orphan support programme in which education and sustenance items are provided to children who have lost parents to Ebola. He was called by the Western Area Ebola Response Centre in Freetown last October to work as a Case Manager in the Ebola response. His role involved, co-ordinating movement of patients from communities to Ebola holding centres, checking Ebola lab results and moving positive cases to treatment centres.
He has also worked as a Research Assistant for a cohort research on Ebola virus in Paediatric patients. In this study, he was responsible to collate, cross-reference and enter data from 7 Ebola holding and treatment units in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Staff and students at UKZN were inspired by his creative, enthusiastic, pro-active, and friendly approach to dealing with victims of the Ebola crisis. In 2013, when he was in fifth year, he had the privilege to do medical electives at King’s College Hospital, London.
Naveed spoke about the signs, symptoms and guidelines of Ebola and shared his experiences of losing a lecturer to the disease, saying that it affected the country’s education and health systems, economy and burial traditions. ‘I didn’t shake anybody’s hand for eight months. We used to get about 120 new suspected cases daily at the treatment centre.’
‘If students are involved in resolving local health issues from the start, they are most likely to stay and work in the country’s public health system later on.’
‘To have a young person doing something of value is pretty amazing,’ said Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa, who lauded Dr Veena Singaram for inviting Naveed.
Medical students, Mr Thembeka Mahlobo and Mr Minenhle Sithole, said the talk was informative, inspiring and motivated them to excel in their work and community engagement projects.