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When Dr. Othman Shemisa returns to Libya to help develop a plan for continuing education for Libyan doctors, he will face many challenges, but he knows they are worth overcoming.
The first challenge will be setting up and starting the program in a country that has been oppressed under the Gaddafi regime for the past 40 years. “Having the doctors there buy into it and take ownership of the concept of continuing medical education and the establishment of it in a department may be difficult,” Dr. Shemisa says. “The ownership of this has to be there, and it must be generated from them.” The group has created a plan that gives the country what it needs most, beginning with updated emergency medicine and radiology technology.
The next challenge will be the continuation of the education. “We don’t want it to be a singular event; the continuity is very important,” Dr. Shemisa says. “As long as there are doctors in Libya who want to champion this and put in the effort to keep it going, it can work. We don’t want to do it all for them, we want to help them accomplish it because they want and need it.”
This idea comes from one perfected by the Peace Corps. “The idea is an ingenious one where the thought was transferred from giving to countries in need to teaching them how to solve the problems and go about progressing themselves,” Dr. Shemisa explains. Years ago, I was involved in the Peace Corps for teachers who volunteered to go to Libya and teach English in the middle schools. There was an initiative to teach English starting in fifth grade and French starting in seventh grade. “I was enthused about the program,” Dr. Shemisa says, “but when Gaddafi came into power, he put an end to it. There is a lot we can help Libyans with, but they have to want the help.”
The country has come a long way in developing its people and its culture. When Libya gained independence in 1951, there were no schools for girls and only four college graduates. The citizens were so determined to better themselves that they opened schools in homes. By 1956, a university was opened, and high school graduates were being sent to study abroad on scholarships. “They didn’t spare an effort to invest in education and the people,” Dr. Shemisa says. “There is a lot of eagerness for catching up and being a part of things. Efforts from the ground up have a big impact and will help with the development there. ”
Dr. Shemisa has a lot of gratitude for the opportunities he has been given, and hopes he can help have the same effect on other doctors in Libya. “I have been fortunate that I had dreams to come to the United States, which is the top country in the world, and get an education and live and learn from people who were at the cutting edge of technology and democracy,” he says. “I am also fortunate that I come from a country where its people are open-minded and want to be part of the world. If we get this continuing education program set up and successful, I think that would be what I am looking forward to the most.”
If you would like to help the Libyan efforts, contact Dr. Shemisa at (440) 414-9700, and he will help connect your expertise to those in need.