Higher Institute for Health Science: training and services [Archives:2006/998/Health]

November 13 2006
HIHS dean Abdulwahab Al-Kuhlani (left) and training center manager Abdulkarim Al-Sharfi.
HIHS dean Abdulwahab Al-Kuhlani (left) and training center manager Abdulkarim Al-Sharfi.
Ismail Al-Ghabri
The Higher Institute for Health Science (HIHS) in Sana'a is considered one of Yemen's outstanding professional health establishments. For 35 years, HIHS and its branches have provided Yemen's health sector with graduates in various health and medical specialties.

Believing in the important role that HIHS is playing in Yemen's development process, the Yemen Times interviewed HIHS dean Abdulwahab Al-Kuhlani and training center director Abdulkarim Al-Sharfi.

Considered one of Yemen's earliest institutes, can you give any background about HIHS's establishment?

Established in 1971 and supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), HIHS began with three departments: nursing, laboratory and public health. It expanded in the late 1970s, adding many departments. A 1975 resolution was issued to change the institute's name from the Human Energy Institute to the Higher Institute for Health Science. At that time, HIHS had only two branches – one in Hodeidah and the other in Taiz.

However, in the 1980s, it expanded further and opened branches and offices in many governorates. We now have 10 branches, three medical schools and more than 10 different specializations and the institute is working to improve its infrastructure and qualify good medical personnel.

What about medical teaching materials used to teach institute trainees?

There are at least 209 different teaching materials. Each of the 10 departments has its specialization and its own syllabus. For example, the pharmacy department is focusing on drugs and pharmacy science, learning how to deal with medication and how to store it, while students in the lab section learn methods of diagnosis and analysis, whereas in the vast field of public health, students study how to fight and prevent epidemics, nursing, midwifery, medical assistance, anesthetics and surgery, medical equipment maintenance, etc.

How many students now are studying at HIHS?

Approximately 3,000 students are studying at HIHS and its branches, with women comprising 30 percent and 100 percent in some departments, such as midwifery. Approximately 1,200 students annually join HIHS and its branches.

What about female students from outside Sana'a?

Most female HIHS students are from various governorates. Because they want to study, we offer them many facilities and services, such as renting residences for them. The institute houses approximately 60 female students from outside Sana'a. It also provides them food and transportation fees.

What are the admission requirements for HIHS?

Students must have a high school certificate in science with a success rate no less than 60 percent. It also depends on the department the student wants to join. Priority is given to students from remote regions and governorates that really need such personnel. Additionally, students must pass an entrance exam.

What are the institute's strategies in upcoming years?

Because there's a five-year plan for medical institutes, we're working at HIHS to carry out this plan, which is based on many factors, the most important of which are to improve the institute's infrastructure, provide medical programs for vocational and specialized health personnel, renew and develop curriculums and add an evaluation and search process.

We're working with the Ministry of Health and Population, as well as in association with the Social Fund for Development and other donors, to achieve these goals. For example, this year, HIHS is granting a specialized diploma in the field of X-ray and medical education, hematology, nursing and children's health care.

Numerous medical institutes recently have emerged. Does HIHS have the authority to oversee these schools and their exams?

For four years, the Ministry of Health has cooperated with HIHS to form a private committee that has worked to define certain standards for opening any medical institute. We're now trying to apply these standards by sending monitoring committees to observe registration and acceptance processes, evaluate the teaching process and how these institutes apply curriculums and examinations.

Some institutes do well while others are delinquent, so we – HIHS and the Ministry of Health's planning and development sector – are trying to mend such delinquency and failure by contacting the administrations of such institutes.

What are the biggest obstacles facing HIHS?

The main obstacle HIHS now faces relates to its financial status because its low budget doesn't meet the institute's goals or ambitions. As I said previously, we have 10 branches but our budget remains the same. There's sometimes an estimated five to 10 percent budget increase, whereas expansion has exceeded 40 to 50 percent.

The second challenge is qualifying personnel because all HIHS trainers have a high school certificate, whereas we need to qualify such personnel to get a bachelor's degree, a master's degree or a doctorate. In fact, we discussed this issue with the minister of health, who cooperated by promising to devote some scholarships for HIHS staff.

HIHS also is suffering a shortage of buildings to contain all of its students. Some branches need expanding and we're looking forward to achieving that in these next years.

Who are HIHS's main supporters and how do you describe this support?

The Yemeni government is HIHS's big financer, followed by the Social Fund, which supports the institute's infrastructure by building labs and organizing training courses for HIHS teachers. WHO also finances the review of some curriculums.

Training for trainers

Considered one of the most important departments at HIHS, the training center was built to train and recertify HIHS teachers by giving them courses in modern medical teaching methods. Speaking about the center's role, the training center director Abdulkarim Al-Sharfi said that until July 2002, there was no specific training for Yemen's health sector teachers. For the first time, HIHS in Sana'a began a one-year in-service training for 16 nursing and midwifery teachers, a project supported by [foreign NGOs] DED (French) and GTZ (German). In-service training involves a week of training each month so participants can get good input, which they can put into practice immediately afterward, a new concept in Yemen that makes a lot of sense.

Such training was followed by numerous other training courses in various governorates. Since the trainings were all very successful, new accommodation had to be found at HIHS in Sana'a so that the surroundings would meet international standards. We moved into new accommodation in January 2004 and have improved the facilities since then.

He added that the centre will extend our target group, so besides training health sector teachers, we'll offer training for all health sector workers. The next steps are to offer training for the heads of wards and guarantee sustainability training for trainers.