Dr Majd El-Harasis (MBBS 2015) received an ‘Outstanding Achievement Award’ and ‘Outstanding Teacher Award’.
Dr Majd El-Harasis, who graduated from the Imperial College School of Medicine (ICSM) in 2015, recently won two prestigious awards after completing his three-year residency at the Mayo Clinic, one of the top hospitals in the United States.
El-Harasis was honoured with the ‘Outstanding Achievement Award’, awarded to the top four residents out of each class who “excelled across multiple domains including clinical performance and research”, as well as the ‘Outstanding Teacher Award’, which is decided by nominations from the intern class and awarded to a senior resident who provided the best teaching experience.
We recently sat down with El-Harasis to hear about his experience at the Mayo Clinic, the impact ICSM has had on his career and his future plans.
First of all, congratulations on winning these awards! What was your reaction when you found out you had won?
I was absolutely shocked and deeply honoured to have won these awards. We received a cryptic email one afternoon saying that we had a meeting with the clinical competency committee that we had to attend the following day. When we arrived, the committee told us about the awards and I was so delighted and extremely honoured. I was very happy to hear that I won the Outstanding Achievement Award and wasn’t expecting to have won the Outstanding Teaching Award as well. The latter was particularly meaningful to me as I am very passionate about medical education and teaching is one of the best perks of being a doctor. My parents were so happy and proud and seeing the look on their face when I told them was priceless.
What was it like to be recognised by both your institution and peers?
Traditionally, it’s a lot more challenging for an international medical graduate to match into a strong residency program in the US. For me, to match at Mayo (ranked as the top hospital in the United States for several years in a row) and to excel there was beyond my wildest dreams.
Can you tell us a bit about where you’re from and how you decided to study Medicine?
I was born in New Jersey, USA and I lived there until I was ten, at which point my family and I moved to Amman, Jordan. My father is an interventional cardiologist and my mother is a pharmacist, but I am the only one of my siblings who has decided to pursue a medical career. I went to an international school in Amman which mainly taught a British curriculum and therefore did GCSEs and A-levels, and was encouraged by the headmistress of the school, Dr Margaret Hustler, to apply to universities in the UK.
And how did you decide on Imperial?
I was very attracted to the medical curriculum at Imperial as it provided a strong foundation in the scientific principles of medicine, ample opportunities for academic scholarship, and had busy hospitals that treat patients from all walks of life. Plus, Imperial is situated in one of the most exciting cities in the world!
You took the Pharmacology pathway for your intercalated BSc whilst on the MBBS course. Did you have an interest in the area before this?
I was still undecided about my future specialism at that point and Pharmacology seemed to provide a broad basis of knowledge that could be applied to multiple fields. I had an amazing experience thanks to the dedicated course leads. I look back at that year fondly as it provided me with the tools to critically appraise medical literature, immensely enhanced my medical writing skills and gave me insight into the world of basic scientific research. I quickly realised that I was passionate about cardiology and the Pharmacology course still allowed me to develop that interest further through a dedicated module on Cardio-respiratory pharmacology and a ten-week cardiology laboratory research project at the National Heart and Lung Institute.
Where did you take your foundation year placements?
I was at West Middlesex Hospital for my F1 year but ended up leaving the job three months early due to my move to the US. Even though it was short-lived, I had an amazing experience there as it was great to work at a hospital that I had rotated in as a medical student and to interact with and teach the Imperial medical students. This was particularly meaningful to me as it allowed me to hone my teaching skills further. I was incredibly honoured to have been recognised as a ‘Local Teaching Hero’ during my time at West Middlesex.
Why did you decide to make the move to the States?
I moved to the US at the end of F1 for a multitude of reasons. I was born and raised there, and I was attracted to the robust nature of postgraduate medical education. During my final year of medical school, I did two four-week elective rotations in the US and I loved the structured focus on trainee autonomy, academic development and didactic learning.
And what is your current field of medicine?
I have completed a three-year internal medicine residency at the Mayo Clinic and have just completed my first year of a three-year general cardiology fellowship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. I’m interested in multiple areas of Cardiology including Advanced Cardiac Imaging and Electrophysiology. I see myself working in an academic centre where I can be in a teaching role with residents and medical students given my strong passion for teaching.
Looking back at your time at ICSM, do you have any favourite memories?
I had the best time at ICSM and adored my time there; ICSM prepared me so well to be the clinician I am today. Throughout my time at ICSM, I was also heavily involved in peer tutoring medical societies through like Muslim Medics and MedEd that allowed me to develop as an educator. I also look back at the one-week Teaching Skills course in year 5 that also provided me with a lot of insight into medical education and how to be an effective educator.
Such wonderful memories! Are you still in touch with any of your ICSM peers?
Definitely! I made so many wonderful and lifelong friendships at ICSM who I am still in contact with. I enjoy hearing about their professional and personal lives, and it gives me great joy to see them all doing so well. I met people from so many different cultures, for which I am incredibly grateful, and it truly made me a more well-rounded individual.
And what advice would you give current ICSM students?
While the future can seem uncertain and you may be unsure about what you want to do, take everything one step at a time and keep an open mind. You never know what will spark your interest. Take advantage of all the resources at your fingertips and don’t be afraid to say yes to experiences and opportunities outside your comfort zone. Remember that we were all in your shoes at some point and don’t be afraid to ask for advice or guidance.
I can’t help but ask this last question as you have such a unique perspective, but do you have any thoughts on the current NHS climate and for students going into it?
The NHS is an incredible organization. The NHS and its staff who made my education a priority, even given how stretched they were, are what made me the clinician I am today, and to that, I will be eternally grateful.
There are certainly things that I think are done better in the US, like more streamlined care, shorter waiting time, more resources for trainees that allows them to focus on clinical care rather than doing routine jobs like drawing blood and paperwork, integrated electronic medical records and a more robust, didactic educational curriculum. However, while the vast majority of patients have good health insurance coverage, it is heart-breaking to see patients not get the care they need due to financial constraints.
Ultimately, my decision to return to the US was personal and multifactorial, as it was home for me and allowed me to specialize in a training and educational environment that aligned better with my personal and academic preferences. I am incredibly grateful and feel forever indebted to Imperial for providing me with the education and resources that allowed me to flourish, no matter what part of the world I decided to practice medicine in.
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