For the past three years the Muslim Medics Southampton Society has been providing support and help to the Muslim students training to be doctors of the future. Medically Speaking spoke with Fahim Syed, the current President (2022-23) to find out why the society was started and how it’s making a positive impact on our students.
How and when did the Muslim Medics start?
Muslim Medics Southampton (MMS) is a society that came to fruition in 2020 by a group of Muslim medical students led by Shahzaib Ilyas (Medical Student Year 4), who recognised the need and desire for a community that advocated, represented and supported them.
Why was it established?
The University of Southampton has proven to consistently have a strong network of Muslim students who come from across the UK and beyond. We recognised that there was a large presence of Muslim students within the Faculty of Medicine (FoM) and that there has been a continuous demand for a professional body that not only supported our learning as student doctors but also accommodated our spiritual needs and development as Muslims.
In addition, we found that naturally a lot of us were eager to enhance our knowledge in both the study of Medicine and religion of Islam. Within our sector, we were fortunate to find Muslims on all programmes (BM6, BM5, BMEU, BM4, BMIT), across all years and with varying levels of Islamic knowledge and exposure. This network reached further to Muslim staff at UHS and other medical schools and hospitals. Medicine and Islam, being a common denominator amongst us, fuelled the drive to create a society within our niche.
It was naturally a good time for us to form a single representative entity to lead the way in bringing numerous benefits to all students, the university and Southampton community.
What sort of support do you offer?
We aim to meet the unique needs of Muslims across the field and offer support accordingly. This year we introduced the role of a Muslim Welfare Rep who is responsible for the mental health and wellbeing of Muslim students. For academia, we deliver revision sessions, OSCE practices, and advice from more senior students/alumni.
In terms of spiritually, many of our members have a role in leading the congregational night prayers on campus during the Holy month of Ramadan as they have the entirety of the Qur’an in their memory! Other students have also played a significant role in establishing a project teaching Qur’an and Arabic.
During the pandemic, MMS was able to advocate the concern regarding beards and face masks to the FoM who addressed these in a serious and sensitive manner, giving us the confidence to engage in further conversations relating to EDI.
Why is it important to offer this support?
Islam teaches us to have the highest standards and expectations in everything we do. As Muslim Medical students we strive for excellency and endeavour to develop, preserve and integrate our professional and religious values throughout the course of our training. This is core to our beliefs as both Muslims and future doctors. We sought to create a society that would collaborate closely with the University of Southampton Faculty of Medicine, MEDSOC, ISOC, SUSU and the wider community across the region to help us achieve this. A society that is forward-thinking in the world of Medicine and driven by our conviction to Islamic values. We believe Islam has a lot to offer modern day society and medicine and we wish to amplify this for the benefit of all, especially our future patients and colleagues.
Do you have any examples of how your support has helped someone?
This is best described by first-year student Bilal Faiq Al Hameed.
“Being from an under-represented background, I never had the privileges that a traditional applicant has when applying to medical school. After facing many obstacles in getting in, I soon realised the social difference between myself and the students in the class.
“Bringing me to a level playing field was Muslim Medics Southampton (MMS), a society formed by a number of students in different years across the faculty, who have been there for me from the beginning of my journey in medical school. They have been guiding me, sharing their top tips and providing me with a range of comprehensive resources – all from their first-hand experience.
“At every step I have asked for guidance, someone has been there to make me feel at ease and suggest the best strategy moving forwards. The community and bonding between each other is so strong, that people go the extra mile to make sure the freshers and new-joiners are welcomed, know what to expect and how to best succeed academically – all this in a safe, friendly and spiritual environment where anybody and everybody is welcome.
“MMS is a reason why I feel at home being away from home. A reason why I have managed to keep the connection between my studies and spirituality. A reason why I have managed to keep a healthy balance between my academics and extra-curriculars. And most importantly, a reason why I have made like-minded friends who want the best for me, keep me good company and are there for me in times of hardship.”
Do you run events for your members? If so, what sort?
We run a variety of events inclusive to all students, Muslim and non-Muslim, medics and non-medics alike. Some examples include welcome conferences for freshers, revision sessions for each semester, inviting guest speakers to deliver talks on Islam and Medicine, organising social events, teaching basic life support to Mosque’s in the community and more. This year we ran our first annual dinner event which was a success, and we were pleased to have non-medical students and staff from UHS attend.
Have the FoM been supportive of your group?
The Faculty of Medicine have played an integral role in the success of MMS over the years. Professor Sally Curtis (Deputy Head of School Education and Admissions Tutor) has been massively supportive and influential for the recognition of MMS within the faculty through various mediums such as the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity work she carries out and also the development of a Student Selected Unit with Mr Aimen Alzetani (Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon at UHS).
We are grateful for the support we have from our other affiliated organisations including the Islamic Society, MEDSOC and SUSU.