With gratitude: the calling to save lives
Last Friday a distinguished group of professionals gathered at the Taumeasina Island Resort to mark their Diamond Jubilee and celebrated 75 years since the establishment of the Samoa Medical Association.
Fourteen years before the country gained independence from New Zealand, the Samoa Medical Association [S.M.A.] held its first Annual General Meeting in 1948, to formally signal the start of the organisation.
A total of 120 people attended the 75th Annual General Meeting and Annual Scientific Meeting last Friday, most of them doctors and medical students as well as S.M.A. members from New Zealand, the diplomatic corps and conference presenters from Suva, Fiji and Melbourne, Australia.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio, paid tribute to the work of the medical profession in Samoa and their contribution to the country’s development in his keynote address last Friday.
He said the establishment of the S.M.A. was a fundamental marker of the shift in Samoa's health sector, from a predominantly expatriate-led organisation to a Samoa mo Samoa approach.
"It is befitting that we celebrate this as we also mark 60 years of Samoa’s independence," he said.
"The advancement of our health sector has in many ways reflected the advancement of politics and culture in the country. Our political independence was not born overnight.
"From the 20 years of German administration to 48 years (1914–1962) of administration by the New Zealand government, the fight for independence had begun.
"In 1948, the very year of the S.M.A.’s first annual general meeting, Samoa’s mock government was introduced, ushering in a period of preparation for our independence which would come 14 years later."
In hindsight, looking back at these important historical events in the lead-up to Samoa’s independence in 1962, Tuala is correct in saying that the progress within the health sector during that era was a reflection of how the country was moving leaps and bounds towards nationhood.
Therefore, look at where we are today as a nation, and the impressive progress that Samoa’s medical profession has made under the tutelage of the S.M.A. over the last 75 years.
Data released by the Deputy Prime Minister on the number of doctors in Samoa is a testament to the hard work of the S.M.A. in partnership with successive Samoa Governments, donor partners and higher education institutions, which played key roles in training the next generation of doctors before and after independence.
We believe the decision to establish the Oceania University of Medicine [O.U.M.] in 2022 and the National University of Samoa [N.U.S.] School of Medicine in 2013 were game changers.
Their churning out of graduates in recent years has ensured that there is a critical and consistent supply of medical graduates to serve at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole National Hospital and the 14 district hospitals on Upolu and Savai’i.
The response by Samoa’s Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) to the 2019-2020 measles epidemic would have been haphazard, if it wasn’t for the intervention by medical personnel trained at these two higher education institutions, who worked in partnership with emergency medicine experts who were flown in from abroad at that time.
Giving credit where credit is due, top marks to successive former Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) Administrations for their foresight, in setting up the Medical School and the O.U.M. two decades ago.
Tuala also acknowledged the work of the New Zealand Administration, who sent Samoans abroad on government scholarships to undergo training as doctors. The Samoa Government’s investment in building capacity within the health sector from 1962 was also mentioned.
"Together with other essential roles, the Government of Samoa since 1962, took over and continued to support overseas training for our local doctors – for graduate and as well as postgraduate or specialist training in Fiji, New Zealand, Great Britain and America,” said the Deputy Prime Minister.
With the COVID-19 pandemic casting a shadow over Samoa and the emergence of new strands and viruses, the demands on the S.M.A. and its members will increase as authorities strive to get on top of these latest public health threats.
Therefore, it was fitting that the Hippocratic Oath, which is an ethical code that guides the conduct of the medical profession, was part of last Friday’s program and was recited by association Chairman, Papali'i Dr Samuelu Petaia.
On that note we congratulate the S.M.A. and its membership on their Diamond Jubilee and thank them for the work they continue to do, often in very difficult circumstances, to save the lives of Samoan men, women and children.
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