Following the conclusion of a workshop titled “Road Toward the Operationalization of the One Health Approach in the Eastern Mediterranean Region” that took place in Amman between March 7 and March 8, 2023, the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) directors convened for their semi-annual FETP Directors meeting. The meeting was held at Landmark Hotel in Amman, Jordan on March 9, 2023, and was attended by the Directors of FETPs in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen.
The meeting was commenced by the FETP Board of Directors Chairperson, Dr. Sahar Samy El Shourbagy, and EMPHNET’s Workforce Capacity Team Leader, Dr. Haitham Bashier, who welcomed the participants. Following his welcoming remarks, Dr. Bashier then introduced Qatar and Oman FETP directors as new members to the board.
EMPHNET Public Health Specialist Ms. Ilham Abu Khader kicked off the meeting agenda with a presentation in which she spoke about the progress made by EMPHNET since the last FETP Directors meeting in 2022. She introduced the FETP dashboard as an online tool developed by EMPHNET to showcase details [pertaining to each country’s program, including the number of residents, graduates, cohorts, and tiers, amongst other details. Ms. Abu Khader also spoke about the FETP Exchange program, and the visits conducted through it. She also showcased the growth of FETPs over the last period, and the outcomes of visits done by EMPHNET’s management team to country programs.
Finally, Ms. Abu Khader shed light on the updates made during the last period in the areas of research and publication. After that, the Director of the Center of Excellence for Applied Epidemiology at EMPHNET Dr. Yousef Khader highlighted the launch of the EMPHNET NCD Research Center and updated the participants about EMPHNET’s next Research Supplement on Field Epidemiology Research that will be published by the end of this year.
EMPHNET’s Knowledge Exchange and Networking Team Leader, Ms. Dana Shalabi, then gave a presentation about new initiatives launched by EMPHNET in the last period. She spoke about the upcoming Eighth EMPHNET Regional Conference set to be held in October 2023, the first annual retreat held by EMPHNET in December 2022, and EMPHNET’s most recently signed memorandum of understandings with the Iraq Ministry of Health, the Sudan Federal Ministry of Health, and TEPHINET. Ms. Shalabi also spoke about the role of EMPHNET’s recently formulated Country Offices Committee (COC) and its efforts in supporting EMPHNET’s work regionally. Finally, she spoke about the initiatives EMPHNET makes to exchange knowledge and increase visibility for FETPs.
Further to this last point, Ms. Shalabi stated that the last year saw the launch of the EMPHNET Electronic Library (EEL), the FETP Ambassador Program, as well as the growth of several initiatives, including 28 webinars hosted as part of EMPHNET’s WEBi Series to date, the publishing of 14 FETP newsletters, the growth of the EMPHNET Internship Program ENGAGE and she shed light on the soon to be launched Public Health News Platform including website and mobile app EpiNews.
Senior Technical Officer Dr. Ruba Al Souri then spoke about the outcomes of the One Health workshop, possible ways forward, and the role of FETPs in steering the one health curriculum forward. In discussions following her presentation, it was stated that the nine-month and three-month One Health curricula should be developed and piloted in some countries based on prioritization criteria.
Each country program director then presented their respective programs’ achievements and the challenges they faced. Re-occurring challenges expressed by FETP directors were related to program funding and sustainability.
Some recommendations raised during the meeting included: expanding the FETP exchange program, the initiation of a fellowship program, implementing the One Health training, mapping out human resources for health in the region, conducting a course on leadership in NCDs, conducting a scientific writing workshop, the launching of an award for distinguished research in the region, and the forming of an operational research group.
It was also agreed to organize a regular meeting for FETP Directors to discuss developments made towards the Eighth EMPHNET Regional Conference.
In conclusion, the meeting was deemed an ideal space to discuss the way forward for the region’s FETP and new initiatives that could spearhead the growth of FETPs in the EMR.