December 24 - 30 2008


IRISH President Mary McAleese is expected to visit the kingdom in February to officially open the new headquarters of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Medical University of Bahrain.

The BD25 million ($65 million) campus sits on land provided by the government of Bahrain adjacent to the planned new King Hamad General Hospital in Busaiteen, Muharraq, and offers state-of-the-art training facilities for would-be doctors and nurses.

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), which has been active in the kingdom for more than 30 years, was invited to establish a centre for medical and healthcare education and training by the Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

And in 2004 the RCSI Medical University of Bahrain was launched by Shaikh Khalifa and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern at temporary premises in Seef with just 27 students.

Now, just four years later, the university has 540 full and part-time students, all studying for either general medical qualifications or nursing degrees.

They moved into the new premises in October while work was still underway and are now preparing for the official opening.

In total there are 150 Bahraini nursing students and 390 medical students who are drawn from 30 different countries across the globe.

Approximately 40 per cent of the would-be doctors are Bahraini, another 40 per cent come from Gulf nations, 10 per cent are Canadian and the remaining 10 per cent are from a huge range of countries.

The qualifications they will eventually receive will be recognised worldwide with the RCSI Medical University of Bahrain (MUB) working to exactly the same curriculum as their colleagues in Ireland.

The original RCSI in Dublin is one of the most distinguished and well recognised medical institutions worldwide which has played a significant role in Irish surgical and medical history since its inception more than 200 years ago in 1784.

The RCSI-MUB is accredited by the GCC Medical Schools Deans' Committee and is included in the World Health Oganisation Directory of Medical Schools and the international medical education directory of the Foundation for the Advancement of International Medical Education and Research.

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For medical students the RCSI-MUB operates a foundation year followed by a five year medical programme with 'White Coat Day', when they actually go into hospitals and start putting what they have learned into practice, coming at around the half way mark.

The King Hamad Hospital, which is being constructed opposite the university will be the main teaching hospital for RCSI Bahrain and medical and nursing students will have the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on clinical experience there.

But they will also be active at other medical facilities and clinics around the island and will be making use of the new college building which has state of the art facilities including lecture theatres, tutorial rooms, laboratories, a learning resource centre with several group study rooms as well as a canteen, common social/recreational facilities, administration and academic offices and sports facilities.

Student accommodation and further teaching space will be built in phase two of the development.

Faculty members are drawn mainly from Ireland and Bahrain as well as some from other areas. Varied teaching and learning methods are used to develop the medical sciences and clinical competencies of the core curriculum including lectures, tutorials, anatomy room teaching, online histology and radiology tutorials and simulation allowing students to acquire practical skills.

From the outset students learn effective communication and clinical skills, initially with plastic model patients then by practising on each other and their families before being given the opportunity to work with real patients.

Dr Talal Al Sindi, who lectures in clinical skills, said: "I believe this organisation provides students with the highest standards of clinical education as well as the latest equipment which is in abundance, students don't have to wait because someone else is using the equipment they need which makes the process of training easier for both them and their teachers.

"Another important aspect of the RCSI-MUB is the management response to the students' needs and wants. They can always get in touch with Professor Sameer Otoom, the head of the School of Medicine and he responds."

Running the show, as president of the RSCI-MUB is Professor Kevin O'Malley - former chief executive of the RSCI in Dublin - who has many years of experience academically and administratively since he graduated with a degree in medicine from University College Dublin in 1965.

Professor O'Malley, has been in Bahrain since the launch of the university in 2004 and has overseen the construction of the new site which has taken around two years.

He said: "I have worked in four other institutions but I have never had the privilege of working in anything as well appointed as these offices. The whole building is beautifully executed.

"The students love the new buildings and are very enthusiastic and we are very hopeful that the Irish president as well as a kingdom VIP will be able to come to perform the official opening in February."

He is looking forward to showing them round the building which was designed by Bahrain-based consultancy Mohammed Salahuddin working with UK-based architect Aedas on the conceptual design.

The structure is deliberately intended to reflect Ireland's lengthy cultural and innovative history marrying this sensitively with the Middle Eastern setting.

The theme is said to rely heavily on what is widely regarded as Ireland's greatest national monument, Newgrange, one of the finest examples in western Europe of the type of tomb known as a passage grave which can be dated to around 3200BC.

The monument consists of a passage and chamber the walls and roof of which are built of large slabs without mortar. A large circular mount or cairn of loose stones covers the stones and at the entrance to the tomb passage in a unique structure called the roof-box through which, at dawn on mid-winter's day, the sun shines illuminating the passage and chambers and many of the large stones and kerbs are dressed and carved with decorative motifs and symbols.

These features have been woven into the design of the building where the shape echoes the mound and the pre-cast cladding refers to the decoration and motifs. The interior finishes, particularly the stone cladding the atrium, carry copies of the designs from the kerbstones and stones within the tomb and an obelisk, when lit, continues the theme by representing the light penetrating the darkness of Newgrange.

The roundabouts on the campus are intended to mimic the external appearance of Newgrange and there will be standing stones throughout the grounds.

However, the Middle Eastern flavour has not been forgotten as evidenced in the light and airy atrium and the unique tented roof and entrance canopy.

All in all the new premises of the RCSI-MUB looks set to make its mark in more ways than one with outstanding design and the opportunity for first class medical training.

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