22 October 2018

Presenting the winning essay documenting our 2018 International Pathology Summer School in Cairo.

In July of this year, the College successfully delivered its second International Pathology Summer School (IPSS) in Cairo, Egypt, in partnership with the Armed Forces College of Medicine (AFCM) and the Egyptian Committee for Pathology Training (ECPT). Over 130 students have attended the programme since its launch in July 2017 and this year we introduced the first IPSS essay competition, to hear what medical students and cadets thought of the programme.

We have selected three of the best entries from this year’s submissions, to be published during the coming months. Congratulations to Ahmed Hussein Ibrahim Abbass from the Faculty of Medicine at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, who has won first prize. Congratulations, too, to Justin Z. Amarin, from the School of Medicine at the University of Jordan in Amman, Jordan, who won second prize, and to Rana Ibrahim Abdalla Shehata from the Faculty of Medicine Ain Shams University, Egypt, who won third prize. We would also like to say thank you to everyone who participated and helped make this competition a success.

Here, we present Ahmed's winning essay. 

International Pathology Summer School: changing perspectives and futures

I was halfway through my fourth year in medical school when I stumbled upon the announcement for the pathology summer school from a colleague in the Armed Forces College of Medicine (AFCM), where the event was later hosted. There was then a shower of memories about pathology and how I didn’t like it, mostly because I didn’t understand why we were being taught it instead of studying the clinical subjects. My impression of pathology was that it was solely important for academic purposes.

However, it seemed like fate had other plans in store for me. I happened to contact a friend of mine who strongly encouraged me to apply, because he was certain I would have a change of mind and heart after attending. I wasn’t really sure at first, but I applied and got accepted into the programme.

During the second half of my fourth year I started taking research courses and wanted to start a project on stem cell treatment for certain tumors – which was my main interest. On initiating a literature review, I discovered that I could hardly remember the characteristics of neoplasms, so I was grateful to be able to join the summer school, hoping it would refresh my memory, or even offer new and engaging ways of teaching.

On the first day, I was really excited for being in AFCM for the first time and getting to know lots of new people (students, mentors and professors). I didn’t realise it at first, but this would be the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

The whole atmosphere seemed friendly and welcoming from the first minute. Everyone was wearing their cool, colourful t-shirts and talking as if they had known each other for years.

My first surprise was the number of specialties and subspecialties we would be covering: forensic pathology, forensic haematology, histopathology, molecular pathology and the list goes on. Before attending, I only heard about histopathology, so I was both surprised and excited to know more about each of them.

The summer school radically altered my view of medicine, pathology and my career as a whole. I am now seriously considering specialising in pathology. It’s a wide and diverse field where you can accomplish yourself within its many options and opportunities.

We got introduced to the different specialties, which demonstrated their importance and scope and highlighted how a combination of specialties is required to make a diagnosis. We were divided into teams, each consisting eight members and a mentor, and given the chance to introduce ourselves, pick a name for our team and explain why we picked that name.

Our team was vastly diverse. We were from different colleges, different hometowns and different countries. We decided to pick ‘Iceberg’ as our team’s name, for the sake of highlighting the dangers of being driven only by the obvious signs and symptoms in diagnosing diseases. We introduced the example of the Titanic incident to further illustrate our point – that at first sight you might only see the tip of the disease, assume that it’s easy to handle and underestimate its true impact, but by studying pathology you can delve deeper and recognise the larger underwater part of the disease.

Then we embarked on our tasks, one at a time. We had three tasks: a debate, quiz and presentation. We divided ourselves so two to three of us focused on one task, and then we discussed our findings and suggestions with the rest of the team. The process went swimmingly and was very enjoyable. I personally believe that teamwork is one of the most crucial skills you can possess. It totally changes the game.

Our mentor was really supportive and knew how to extract our best talents. That’s why we were really proud when we were announced as the winners of all the tasks. In three days’ time, our team had already become a family. We are still all in contact and look forward to working together again in the future.

The summer school radically altered my view of medicine, pathology and my career as a whole. I am now seriously considering specialising in pathology. It’s a wide and diverse field where you can accomplish yourself within its many options and opportunities. It’s not just academic as I used to believe before the summer school – it’s one of the cores of medicine. I now believe no medical team should work without a pathologist in it. They are essential for properly diagnosing and handling cases.

I would highly recommend this programme to every undergraduate student who still thinks twice about the importance and wealth of pathology. It is a life-changing experience that opens your eyes to the many opportunities awaiting you. You will meet great people who may become lifetime friends. And you will think globally because, after all, pathology is global.