A legacy of teaching

Dr. Eyad Althenayan

For the past 36 years, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry has provided Saudi Arabia’s brightest residents and fellows the opportunity to train as one of the School’s own

By Jesica Hurst, BA'14

When Dr. Rasha Baaqeel completed medical school at the top of her class at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, she was awarded a residency scholarship in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

But this wasn’t just any scholarship—it was an opportunity for her to expand her horizons and complete her training somewhere abroad.

Dr. Baaqeel, now a fifth-year resident in plastic and reconstructive surgery, decided on Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. “I had heard a lot of fantastic things about the School and the program, and I wanted to be exposed to the same experiences my mentors had,” Dr. Baaqeel said.

For the past 36 years, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry has given residents and fellows like Dr. Baaqeel the opportunity to receive training at its state-of-the-art facilities through the Internationally Sponsored Residents and Fellows program. Since 1979, the School has trained a total of 464 residents and fellows with the program, and 76 per cent of them have come from Saudi Arabia.

These international trainees are funded by a sponsoring agency in their home country. The School currently has partnerships with: Aramco Services Company – Saudi Arabia; Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau; Embassy of the State of Kuwait; Oman Medical Specialty Board; and Jaffna Health Foundation – Sri Lanka.

“This long-standing, successful program continues to extend our profile internationally and encourages us to look outward for international opportunities,” said Dr. John Denstedt, Special Advisor to the Dean, Health Globalization, Internationalization and Simulation at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. “It fits with the goals of our strategic plan, adds diversity and gives us the opportunity to extend our influence on a global scale.”

Dr. Eyad Althenayan completed his two fellowships as part of the Internationally Sponsored Residents and Fellows program from 2004-2007. While the quality of training was an obvious bonus for Dr. Althenayan, he explained the opportunity helped him most by improving his other skills.

“Training at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry did help me improve my knowledge, but more importantly, it helped me develop my leadership, communication and teaching skills.” - Dr. Eyad Althenayan

The experience also helped Dr. Althenayan obtain leadership roles in Saudi Arabia, and he was eventually recruited back to Schulich Medicine & Dentistry as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine and a Consultant in Critical and Neurocritical Care at London Health Sciences Centre.

“It makes me feel proud to be part of a great opportunity like this, as I am not only happy to be part of this institution again, but being in Canada opens up doors for my children as well,” he said.

According to Dr. Denstedt, Dr. Althenayan’s situation is rare, as close to 100 per cent of all internationally sponsored trainees move back home to work once they complete their residency or fellowship. This is the plan for Dr. Baaqeel. She will complete a one-year fellowship in microsurgery following her residency, then will move back home where she has a position at the King Abdulaziz National Guard Hospital in Jeddah.

However, the Internationally Sponsored Residents and Fellows program has opened her mind to the idea of expanding her knowledge in other countries later in life.

“Who knows? Maybe I’ll become interested in a certain field and go somewhere like Taiwan to see how they do things there,” she said. “This experience has taught me it’s crucial in medicine to be innovative and see as many different ways of doing the same thing as you can.”