Hometown: Alexandria, Egypt
Undergraduate: Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, Alexandria University, Faculty of Medicine
Masters 1: Medical Education, Alexandria University
Masters 2: Health professions Education, University of Rochester, NY
Advanced Certificate of Program Evaluation, University of Rochester , NY.
PhD: MD of Medical Education candidate, Faculty of Medicine, Suez Canal University
Field: Medicine, Medical Education
TL;DR: Hanaa grew up in Alexandria, she is an Assistant Lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine, she earned her Bachelor's at Alexandria University. She also received two masters of Medical Education from Alexandria University and the University of Rochester. She is currently a PhD candidate at Suez Canal University.
Hanaa, Can you tell us a bit about yourself and why you decided to study Health Education?
I am a physician, I found my passion in learning and development. When I chose medical education as my specialty, I experienced a mindset shift from medical sciences to social sciences which widened my view of life. Medicine and health sciences have specific nature that involve the transfer of learned science to providing patient care. Thus, educating doctors and healthcare professionals was not captured in psychological and educational sciences. The ultimate goal of medical education is to prepare competent caring compassionate physicians who can provide patient care.
Medical education as a discipline is concerned with developing and investigating the best ways to train physicians at all levels: undergraduate, post graduate and continuous professional development. Medical education emerged decades ago, the main domains include; curriculum design, teaching and assessment methods within medical and health sciences, educational leadership, faculty development and educational research.
Reflecting back on your experience, what do you think are the main advantages of studying in the United States?
Studying in the US was a transformative experience that changed my personal and professional life. Personally, living abroad taught me independence and interdependence. It was an authentic experience of taking care of the fine details of life that we take for granted being at home among family and friends. Maintaining your health, cooking good food, installing home appliances are details that look simple here at home, but being away you need to learn so much and balance all those details with your academic life and due assignments.
Being a melting pot, the US was the best place to learn with, from and about people from different cultures. I was able to work in teams with colleagues from all around the world productively and we ended up being friends. Teamwork and interdependence are not myths anymore.
Professionally, I experienced being part of academia, where I got to communicate with highly professional academics on a daily basis. Walking around the campus, you can meet colleagues and friends who are not only interested in your research ideas, but also are able to build upon those ideas, offer suggestions, and even help you with books and articles. Joining this academic community was an enriching ongoing learning experience that improved my professional knowledge and skills. In this community, I was able to get in contact with educational leaders who are role models and represent the best practices in my profession. So, whatever your specialty and wherever you go , join a learning community, a study group, and find a role model in your own practice.
Let’s go back in time a little. When did you first consider applying to universities abroad? How did you prepare for the application process?
Back in 2015, I started my application to universities abroad when I was almost done with my master dissertation in Alexandria University. I applied for a master's degree also because there was a funding opportunity offered by the university to my department. I was not worried about starting over in the U.S., I was really excited about learning and turned out to be my best learning experience ever.
I reviewed the university requirements. Then, I started by preparing all official documents needed as I know the process takes some time. It is always helpful to order extra copies of any official document (university transcripts, any certificate needed, etc..).
Why did you apply to Rochester University? Did you apply to any other US universities?
I applied to Rochester (UoR) as it is one of two universities in the US that offer the program to international students. Medical Education is a relatively new field and there are not many schools that offer this particular program. Compared to the University of Michigan program, UoR had a clear description of their admission requirements and their timeline to graduation.
What did you enjoy the most in your program? Tell us about your favorite courses or experiences.
I enjoyed my program so much as it was a joint program between the school of medicine and the school of education. It was a rich experience that captured both theories and practice. The design of the program had a sequential manner that you need to take three courses with the same cohort which allowed me to build a community; learning and collaborating with my colleagues for a long time. In addition, I worked on my portfolio along this cumulative experience.
One unique thing about my program is that it had no exams at all. The program was based on intensive reading, intensive writing and intensive reflection. It was a challenge at the beginning yet it turned out to be the best experience I ever had. I felt like a scholar enjoying learning and debating ideas and insights at every course.
Lastly, the program director and my thesis supervisor Prof Dr Judith Fonzi was a transformational leader who influenced me the most. She supported me in every possible way and empowered me to gain an extra scholarship to finish my Advanced Certificate of Program Evaluation (15 credits program with a practicum).
How did funding fit in the picture? Tell us more about this process and any advice you may have for others?
I was lucky regarding the funding as I got the funding opportunity through a scholarship offered by my home institution. The funding opportunity was offered by the University to my department as there were no similar degrees available in Egypt, but I had to apply for it with a specific research plan and letter of acceptance from universities abroad. I would say choosing a brand new subspecialty is challenging yet it provides many opportunities.
Did you receive any mentorship/support as you were applying?
I had a colleague who went to the same university a year earlier. In addition, during the application process, I met colleagues applying for funds. It is always great to exchange contacts and keep in touch with your partners in the application process.
What do you think students often get “wrong” about the US application process?
I won’t get accepted, I have to copy the cover letter. Being authentic and real , it is extremely valued by hosting universities .
What tips do you have about how to write a compelling cover letter?
Make sure you know the professor/committee you are writing to. Take the time to check the university website, look up the professor (program director) or your future supervisor, maybe even watch a recorded lecture on youtube. Getting that glimpse will give you an idea about who your interviewer is and also some of his/her research points. This preparation will give a great first impression. Make sure to read the program's aims and objectives and include it in your cover letter, especially why you think this program is the best for you specifically. Your cover letter is about you, so don’t hesitate to speak in first person. Be confident , modest and respectful , but don’t overdo it . Also, Match the program aims with your professional aim and future plan.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in applying?
Review the admission criteria and read the program description very well.
Be patient, it takes time and effort. Prepare all the paperwork needed such as, your university transcripts, English test, any official document. It might take a year to get accepted and to actually be there enjoying your learning experience . So, It needs patience and persistence.