Imperial College London

Dr Amir Sam appointed as Head of Imperial College School of Medicine

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Dr Amir Sam

Dr Sam was appointed to the leadership role earlier this year.

Through his undergraduate study at UCL and Harvard, and postgraduate training in Oxford and London, Dr Sam became a consultant physician and endocrinologist at Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospitals, gaining his PhD in neuroendocrinology from Imperial College London.

The leadership role has been recently renamed ‘Head of Imperial College School of Medicine’ from ‘Head of Undergraduate Medicine’, to better reflect both Dr Sam’s role and the structure of the School itself.

The School of Medicine sits as the hub of undergraduate teaching within the wider Faculty of Medicine; where the Faculty’s Education Office oversees across all educational activity, including the undergraduate MBBS and BSc in Medical Biosciences, as well as the Faculty’s postgraduate programmes.

Dr Sam said: “A key focus for me in the near future is the consolidation of a true sense of belonging for our students to our School of Medicine. The benefits of this to student wellbeing and education are increasingly recognised, and are pivotal for us. We are a community, and believe this extends far beyond graduation. We want our alumni to carry their identity with them with pride, and to maintain strong links with us long after they move on into their future careers.”

In March, Dr Sam also took on the role of Director of the Charing Cross Campus, where he hopes to focus on ensuring the creation of a fitting environment for students to have a true, physical sense of the modern, technology-driven and research-based School of which they are part.

“We need to suffuse our curriculum with input from our diverse faculty of world-class researchers and deliver it in a forward-thinking environment. As Churchill said, “we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us”. In our environment, as well as in our curriculum and ethos, we must focus on further fostering and embedding a culture of diversity and inclusivity among our students to enable them to be patient-centred practitioners, scholars and professionals.”

Meeting society’s ever-changing healthcare needs

Part of Imperial since 2006, Dr Sam has taught on each year of the MBBS programme in both science and clinical areas. Alongside both his own practice and key research interest in medical education, this experience has highlighted the vital importance of consistently adapting Imperial’s educational offering to ensure students are graduating ready to respond to the ever-changing healthcare landscape and community needs.

“We live in a hyper-connected world, and need to prepare our students to be flexible and resilient in the face of complex challenges and uncertainties. We must empower them to recognise that rarely will there be a black-and-white answer and they need to be able to operate in ‘greyscale’. We must ensure that a strong scientific foundation is present in all their learning, allowing them to underpin their practice with evidence.”

The interdisciplinary and collaborative ethos of both the College and Faculty is reflected in Dr Sam’s intentions to further instil the importance of teamwork in problem-solving.

“We want to involve our students as partners, and continue to create learning experiences that are inclusive, interactive, and that encourage students to work together. We recognise that we live in what often feels a competitive environment, but it is vital that we embed the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration in all areas of our education and student experience.”

Collaboration — inside the School itself, across and with the College’s diverse faculties, and externally with other schools and around the world —  will be a critical theme across all our activity in future.”

Evidence-based innovation

Dr Sam has also held positions including Director of Clinical Studies at Charing Cross Hospital, and externally in senior roles at both the Medical Schools Council and General Medical Council. Most recently, he served as Director of Assessment for the School of Medicine, leading a number of multicentre studies on innovative assessments.

“I am committed to continue ensuring a robust, evidence-based education for all our students. Design and delivery of our teaching and assessments must be informed by evidence from education research and best practice. While we are also fortunate to have access to advanced technology, pedagogy needs to drive technology, rather than vice versa.”

Socially-distanced Dr Amir Sam (right) and Dr Omid Halse, Head of MBBS Year 3, plan teaching at Charing Cross Hospital between clinical shifts tending to COVID patients
Socially-distanced Dr Amir Sam (right) and Dr Omid Halse, Head of MBBS Year 3, plan teaching at Charing Cross Hospital between clinical shifts tending to COVID patients

The School has been at the forefront of significant education research over recent years, introducing inventive and innovative approaches to teaching delivery, feedback and assessments. Dr Sam’s achievements in these areas were recognised by the award of the prestigious President’s Medal in 2015 for Outstanding Contribution to Teaching Excellence.

Dr Sam said: “We have introduced novel approaches that have since been adopted by many other schools in the UK and abroad, some extending even beyond undergraduate and into the postgraduate world.”

The outbreak of COVID-19 has been a significant area of focus for Dr Sam in the role so far, with a tough balancing act of undertaking demanding clinical duties, whilst continuing to work alongside the Education Office and academic colleagues to ensure delivery of quality teaching and assessment for students.

This included running what the College believes to be a world first in the successful introduction of the high-stakes, remote-access, open-book final-year medical exams online.

A proud record of achievement

“It is an honour to hold a role like this at Imperial College School of Medicine; where challenges — such as those seen so far this year, that have never been encountered before — are consistently overcome. In the context of a global pandemic that has paralysed many parts of the world, our delivery of remote teaching and assessments, without interruption, is indicative of Imperial’s rightful place in the world’s top ten universities.

“I am proud to work alongside so many people, whether academic, clinician or professional services, who are true leaders in their fields and have such dedication to our students. I am honoured to be part of the story; both our students’ and that of this prestigious School.”

Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Professor Jonathan Weber, said: “Having seen Amir complete his PhD at Imperial and teach here for almost 15 years, it has been a real pleasure to watch him rise to become the Head of our School of Medicine. His indefatigable enthusiasm for innovation, his dedication to our students’ experience and his passion for the School and its history puts our students in extremely capable hands now and for the future.

“In combining this role with that of Director of our Charing Cross Campus, Amir will be instrumental in realising our commitment to the continuing development of the Campus as a centre for educational excellence and the home of our School of Medicine.”

Reporter

Dorrit Pollard-Davey

Dorrit Pollard-Davey
Faculty of Medicine Centre

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