28 October 1999

Alumni Meeting in Damascus: University of Heidelberg Presents New Medical Programme

Continuing education worldwide for alumni: "Alumni.med.Live" – Rector Prof. Dr. Juergen Siebke also met Heidelberg graduates with an active commitment to the Syrian health system – Medical centre "an impressive testimony of what our graduates are achieving the world over"

In the field of medicine the transfer of knowledge between Orient and Occident can look back on a long tradition indeed. In the Middle Ages Europeans journeyed to Damascus to enhance their skills as physicians. Now, almost a thousand years later, Syrian and German medical experts met at that same city to exchange information and experience at the 12th German-Syrian Medical Congress. It was the ideal platform for presenting a project run from the University of Heidelberg and providing continuing education for doctors. "Alumni.med.Live is a medical continuing education service in the Internet addressed to foreign graduates of German higher education institutions," said Albrecht Bayer of Heidelberg Alumni International on the occasion of the presentation of the programme at the University of Damascus.

Bayer continued: "It is also addressed explicitly to alumni in developing countries." The University of Heidelberg has designed the project to run for three years. Its main addressees are doctors and medical experts in developing countries. The heart of the project is a comprehensive multimedia knowledge database accessible via the Internet. At present it is being put together at the CBT Lab of the University's Surgical Hospital by senior consultant Dr. Friedrich Kallinowski and his team. The infobase is "fed" by a virtual medical faculty under the directorship of Heidelberg surgeon Prof. Dr. Christian Herfarth. Its members come from a broad array of different disciplines. Also involved are the alumni work units of other Baden-Wuerttemberg universities (Freiburg, Mannheim, Tuebingen and Ulm). "Alumni.med.Live" represents German medical expertise in a global dimension. As such it is an important advertisement for Germany as a location of scientific know-how, as the funding of the project by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation, the German Academic Exchange Service and the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Science, Research and Art demonstrates.

Damascus was a conscious choice for the first presentation of the project. Over the last few decades there have been a growing tradition of medical students from the Middle East graduating at German universities. "Syria is proud of the achievements of its compatriots who have received theuir medical training in Germany," said Professor Dr. Salha Sankar, the Syrian higher education minister, in her welcoming address. Congress president Dr. Ali Chaaban, a specialist for internal medicine and himself a Heidelberg graduate, was able to welcome not only 300 participants to the conference but also Lower Saxony's social minister Heidrun Merk.

Also present at the event in Damascus was the Rector of the University of Heidelberg, Professor Dr. Juergen Siebke. A reception was organised in his honour by the German embassy and he met high-ranking representatives of the Syrian government. Other items on his programme were information visits to the universities of Damascus, Lattakia and Aleppo. Prof. Siebke also met Heidelberg alumni engaged in an active commitment to the Syrian health system. Dr. Ali Chaaban, for example, has established a medical care centre in his native city, a scheme undertaken entirely on his own initiative. "This is science in the service of humanity," said Professor Siebke, deeply moved. "The centre is an impressive testimony of what our alumni are achieving the world over."

"Alumni.med.Live" is designed to assist the Heidelberg graduates abroad in their continuing education. The presentation on ten computers at the University of Damascus aroused great interrest among medical graduates and students, not least because in Syria the Internet is still a youthful medium.

At the subsequent reception for the Rector in the Amber Palace, attended by 500 guests, the representative of the German embassy praised the initiative planned by the University of Heidelberg: "It is a valuable support for our daily work." Dancing dervishes and Arab music in the palace garden rounded off the event on an oriental note. Further events featuring presentations of "Alumni.med.Live" are planned for the coming year – in China and Latin America. Here too the University can count on the services of its Heidelberg Alumni International network.

Please address any inquiries to:
Albrecht Bayer, Dr. Peter Saueressig
Heidelberg Alumni International
phone: 06221/542339 or 0621/3388351

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317

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