World Health Organization designates AUB’s Family Medicine Department as WHO Collaborating Center

​​​​​​​​​​​​Safa Jafari Safa, ​Office of Communications, communications@aub.edu.lb​​​

The AUB Family Medicine Department has been designated as the first World Health Organization Collaborating Center (WHO-CC) for Family Practice. Under the newly established partnership, the center will contribute to WHO's work in strengthening family practice in the Eastern Mediterranean region. It will also foster integration of family practice in primary healthcare centers in the region and, under WHO's leadership, build a state-of-the-art model for family practice centers in the region.

“This is a very special recognition of our AUBMC Family Medicine team and at the same time a challenging undertaking," said Dr. Ghassan Hamadeh, chairman of the Department of Family Medicine and director of the newly established WHO-CC at AUB Medical Center. “The many projects completed and to be achieved made this partnership materialize, and could not have been possible without the dedicated members of the AUBMC Family Medicine faculty and staff."

Several projects have come to fruition at the Family Medicine Department this year, including the Sports Medicine Fellowship, the Wellness Center, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-International (ACGME-I) accredited programs, Occupational Health, Health Coaching, and the Youth Clinic.

“This [designation] is another recognition of their hard work and caring to make AUB stand out as a leader in education and service and as a catalyst of progress in Lebanon and the region. I am proud and lucky to be a member of this 'family' and am sure will make WHO proud as well," added Hamadeh.

Dr. Hamadeh recognized the support of Dr. Mona Osman, assistant professor of family medicine; of the WHO and the Ministry of Public Health in upskilling general practitioners to attain a universal health coverage vision; the guidance of Dr. Hassan Salah, regional advisor, primary and community health care, and team lead, integrated service delivery team at the Department of Health System Development of WHO's regional office for the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO); and Dr. Ahmad Mandil, coordinator, research development and innovation at WHO EMRO, who helped materialize the new partnership. Hamadeh also acknowledged the support of the Ministry of Public Health through Dr. Walid Ammar and Dr. Randa Hamadeh, who he stated believe in the importance of enhancing the capacity of general practitioners in the primary health care centers and whose support was instrumental in this achievement. He also recognized the support from AUB's Continuing Medical Education Office, the AUB Faculty of Medicine​, and AUB Faculty of Health Sciences.

The AUB Family Medicine Department's support of WHO and the Ministry of Public Health is not a recent endeavor as it had started in 1995, directly through the department as well as through work within the Lebanese Society of Family Medicine.

“This is a timely designation, particularly since this year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Family Medicine Department as the first of its kind in the region," said Dr. Mona Osman. “The designation of our department as a WHO-Collaborating Center for Family Practice is a recognition of the role that the department has been playing over the years in strengthening family medicine at the national and regional levels. It is also a commitment from the department to continue working on improving family medicine in the region."

Osman explained that the idea of a WHO-CC started in 2016 following a collaboration between the Family Medicine Department and WHO-EMRO to develop a blended course to introduce general practitioners to family medicine and improve their knowledge and skills in the management of common problems in primary care. This collaboration came within the context of WHO adopting family practice as a means to achieving universal health coverage. Bridging programs were approved by WHO as a way to increase the number of family medicine practitioners in view of the limited number of family physicians in the region.

To develop the course, several training of trainer sessions were conducted in several countries in the region, some of which started implementing the course and/or further developing it to a diploma. More recently, WHO-EMRO asked the Family Medicine Department to develop the curriculum and content of a one-year blended regional professional diploma in family medicine, in collaboration with the World Organization of Family Physicians (WONCA), to be implemented within the region.

The department also started in Lebanon a blended 18-month diploma in family medicine, offered in collaboration with the Lebanese University and the Ministry of Public Health. The first group of 40 general practitioners will graduate in three months and another group will start this month. 

With the aim to further improve the quality of health services that are provided at the primary level for the improved health of individuals and the community, the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Family Practice will contribute to the strengthening and reshaping of family medicine in the region and improving its delivery.