“If it wasn’t for The Perse, I wouldn’t have become a doctor”
President of Medecins Sans Frontieres’ UK branch, Javid Abdelmoneim (OP), returned to The Perse to provide students with an illuminating look into his work for the cause.
During his 42 Lecture – his first visit to The Perse since leaving in 1997 – Dr Abdelmoneim explained the role of MSF as a neutral organisation, helping people in need in areas affected by wars, epidemics and natural disasters or who are excluded from regular health care.
Dr Abdelmoneim outlined some of his previous missions with MSF including periods in South Sudan dealing with people suffering with chest infections, malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition and in Sierra Leone during the ebola epidemic of 2014.
He also told the audience about his most recent MSF project, helping refugees heading across the Mediterranean Sea on dinghies from Libya to Italy to reach safety.
On top of his MSF and media commitments – Dr Abdelmoneim presented the BBC TV series No More Boys and Girls earlier this year and hosts Al Jazeera show The Cure – he still works two days a week as an A&E doctor at an NHS hospital in London.
Dr Abdelmoneim, who has also worked on MSF projects in Iraq, Haiti and Lebanon, said he had enjoyed coming back to The Perse and that the School had played a big part in shaping his career.
He said: “I was never intending to be a medic. I wasn’t good at chemistry. I somehow got an A in my GCSE even though I was in the central stream and I’d started A levels doing an engineering bundle.
“Mr Richardson, the head at the time, came to me a couple of weeks into term and said ‘I’ve got wind you’re good at chemistry, have you ever thought of medicine?’
“I said ‘um, maybe’ and he switched my A levels there and then and that’s that. If it wasn’t for The Perse, I wouldn’t have become a doctor.”
Dr Abdelmoneim was also delighted that The Perse had got involved with the Missing Maps initiative, of which MSF was one of the founders, with the launch of its student mapathons.
He said: “Missing Maps is a really neat project. When you look at an aerial map on a computer sometimes it’s blank, but it’s not because there’s nothing there.
“On the whole, there are people everywhere and there are roads. We need to know where they are to be able to get to where people are in need and maps are how we do it.
“It’s such vital work and it’s great that The Perse is doing this. It makes me really excited that we’re sowing those seeds of knowledge with the students that there’s a bigger world out there.”
Listen to Dr Abdelmoneim talk about how he got involved with MSF, what he finds rewarding about such work and his advice to students considering helping the cause in the future.