News Report / Profile
Alumni Association of the Lisbon Faculty of Medicine - The Dynamic of an Association
Caption: Below, left to right; Professor Rafael Ferreira, President of the Fiscal Council; Professor António Gentil Martins, Member of the Consultative Council; Dr. Maria do Céu Roque Gomes, Member of the Direction; Dr. Vasco Corrêa d’Almeida, General Secretary to the Direction; Dr. Rui Bento, Chairman. Above, left to right; Professor Alberto Escalda, Treasurer and Dr. Ângela Valença, Member of the Direction.
25th of March 2009, Cid dos Santos Amphitheatre
Authors: Alumni Association. Interviewed by Helena Cabeleira.
Participants in the Interview: Professor António Gentil Martins, founding member and member of the Consultative Council; Dr. Rui Simões Bento, founding member and Chairman and Dr. Vasco Corrêa d’Almeida, founding member and General Secretary to the Direction, all from the AAAFML.
The Alumni Association (AAA) of the Lisbon Faculty of Medicine (FML) was officially set up on the 4th of July 2000, with its statutes being duly approved. But the AAAFML has a past that should not be forgotten but instead respected, as since 1997 a pro-Alumni Association of the FML Committee had been working, at a time when it was possible to bring together about five-hundred members spread over different age groups and careers through the effort, dedication and dynamism of figures such as Dr. Adriano Natário, Dr. Alexandre Lourenço, Dr. José Antunes, Dr. Rui Portugal, Dr. Rui Bento and Professor Carlos Perdigão.
Over the following years the AAAFML carried out a series of thematic debates, namely about the management of Hospital Services in the concept of a “Centre of Integrated Responsibility” organising a round table that took place during the XXII Portuguese Congress of Cardiology, in Vilamoura, in a text published in volume one of the magazine Alumni Forum, one of the association’s communication organs.
It also organized debates on important issues for the medical classes, like that of the “Waiting Lists” in the Portuguese Health Service, at the FML Aula Magna, published in volume two of Alumni Forum.
Later, in December 2001, it held a new cycle of debates in collaboration with the Alumni Association of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of Lisbon, among the candidates for the Presidencies of the Council of the Southern Region and the National Executive Council of the Medical Order, as at the time the elections for these organs were being held.
The AAAFML’s collaboration with the FML Students’ Association has been visible through the seminars it organised on the subject “Professional Opportunities”, which included the participation of figures of prestige, who presented the different professional opportunities in the academic, hospital, research pharmaceutical industry and sports medicine careers, as well as in the different medical-surgical specialties.
From 2003 to 2005, the AAAFML had a period in which it was unable to carry out important activities, until the dynamic attitude of Professor António Gentil Martins set under way a whole process of development and activity that culminated in what the AAAAFML is today.
In this context, its current dynamic leaders, Professor António Gentil Martins, Dr. Rui Bento and Dr. Vasco Corrêa d’Almeida were invited to give an interview. The first question was for Professor A. Gentil Martins.
It is important to reveal how you managed to once again provide a dynamic to the activities and workings of the AAAFML after April 2008, as the association went through periods of difficulty in its development and then came back to its current dynamic.
Professor António Gentil Martins (AGM): The association had been stopped for some considerable time, and I tried to set off a process of electing a new committee. To do so, I managed to motivate Dr. Joshua Ruah, but after two years nothing had happened and at the end of this period I was contacted by the current Dean of the FML, Professor José Manuel Fernandes e Fernandes, who told me about the association’s inertia and invited me to take the helm.
In reply, and as I personally didn’t have the time to take on the role as chairman, as I was Chairman of the General assembly I took three decisions: the first was to invite all the initially enrolled members to find out whether they were interested or not in the association continuing; the second was to convoke the Chairpersons of the Students’ Association over the last ten years, who, having been chairpersons, would be more receptive to governing an association; and finally I called a meeting at which the result was an election to constitute the current governing bodies, with people who were available and motivated to continue the AAAFML activity, with the presentation of the mandate programme.
Meanwhile, Professor Fernandes e Fernandes contacted me again saying that the celebration of a protocol had been arranged between the FML, the AAA and the Caixa Geral de Depósitos Bank, and as I was still the Chairman of the General Assembly, he invited me to represent the association in the public act of the signing of this protocol. Given that I accepted, this led me to consider I was at least temporarily responsible for the AAA to function fully, a point of honour from then on.
As Chairman of the AAAFML, what are the main concerns facing it nowadays?
Dr. Rui Bento (RB): Above all, and beyond the work it involves, what most concerns me is creating conditions for the AAA to function fully.
In an interview I granted to the Medical Order recently about the Association, the approach was precisely the issue of the legalization of the AAA and the solving of the unsolved issues, such as fulfilling the Mandate Programme 2008-2011 and the necessary process to be carried out at the moment in order to get new members, with the Association carrying out a wide campaign to make itself and its activities known, particularly among the former students of the FML who carry out their functions in public or private institutions, universities, research centres and other activities, but who are spread throughout Portugal and abroad.
In this context the AAAFML is taking advantage of this interview as a means to invite all the people and figures who wish to maintain the ties they have with the FMUL through its Alumni Association to enrol as new members, thus benefiting from all the activities it has held and will carry out in the future. They are able to do this by consulting the Internet page, http://aaafml.blogspot.com/ for all the necessary information, as well as the enrolment form for new members, after a contribution of an initial payment of €25 for people and associations.
What is important at the moment is to make the AAA’s existence known, as well as its meetings, its debates and the informal meeting place that it wishes to be, and above all for the FML Alumni to know that they can count on the support and recognition of the AAAFML.
Given your role as General Secretary of he AAA what are the main issues that you feel need more pressing attention?
Dr. Vasco Corrêa d’Almeida (VCA): At the moment, and about nine years late, there are still legal issues that have become constraints and that we are progressively sorting out. Namely the bureaucratic and administrative aspects, such as the declaration of the beginning of our activity, which has to be given to the Ministry of Finance in order to set off the process in order to request exemption from the need to present company tax declarations. This issue, for example, should have been solved back in 2000, ninety days after the association was founded, which was not done and may mean that the AAA will be given a hefty fine for not complying with deadlines.
We also have all those other aspects that an association usually has and that were not dealt with at the right time and so take up too much time and money in order to implement them and correct them.
The AAAFML had the initiative to set off a process that was called a training period open programme for FML students who are still finishing their first degree. The question here is how can the FML and the AAA interact in order to make these training periods become in fact attractive for the FML students?
AGM: Twenty colleagues were kind enough to volunteer to receive students who wished to join this project. However, we are still waiting for a response from the students.
The reality is that for the students to feel enthusiasm or attracted to join this opportunity there would have to be some reward in the curricular programme for the degree, in which the possibility of attending these training periods was contemplated.
These training periods would have to be classified as “curriculum options”.
The students already have options for extra-curricular activities that are of interest to them. These training periods would represent one of the options: carrying out clinical activity with a colleague who is a member of the association, who has offered to give them training in professional life, including in areas of research. As a reward for this they could obtain a credit or a mark, just like those used for their other options.
The main issue would be the length of time compatible in order to include this “special clinical training period for development of professional life” within their curricular schedules.
VCA: The basic philosophy behind this operation would be for the students to have experience of what practicing medicine would be and it wouldn’t have to do with marks, only with accompanying clinical activity with a colleague, whether this was an orthopaedic surgeon, a colleague from public healthy, a cardiologist, etc.
But above all there must be a compatible timetable, with an optional period of choice in order for there to be the possibility to opt for this type of activity.
One of the people who gave a great incentive to this initiative was Professor Fernando Pádua, who offered to open the doors of the Institute of Preventive Cardiology, and who was publicly very pleased about the idea in the sense that he had been one of its pioneers, and who was very pleased that the idea had been taken up once again through the AAA.
RB: The advantage lies only in learning. Nowadays, due to the rhythm the students are subjected to, they probably think they have no advantage in participating in these training periods.
So in that case what is the role of the Faculty of Medicine in the development or use of this activity?
AGM: The school itself will have to define the way it sees the students fit into using this opportunity fully. Possibly as an optional subject integrated within the several curriculum options that already exist, or as one more extra-curricular option, so it can be used as an easier, more useful and gratifying way of developing the students in academic terms. Availability for extra work is always difficult for students to accept, particularly when its validity is not acknowledged.
It is important for the Faculty to establish the conditions for these training periods, and beyond this, define in what academic years they may be included.
What are your future expectations for the development of the AAAFML?
RB: Right now it is important for us to be able to comply with the programme in most items from the programme for 2009, with the encounters and debates on important issues, not only those of interest to the medical classes, but also for the students, although the AAA does not wish to interfere with the actions being carried out by the FML Students’ Association, but rather be a mutual complement and clarification that in general terms would also be a form of interaction with the Medicine Faculty that is mentioned in the statutes of the AAA.
On the other hand, it is important to know that the FMUL would like the AAA to develop or be representative in terms of teaching support, in terms of complementarity in the form of support for the school and the students who study in it, and in everything that these two institutions consider that the AAA may collaborate or interact.
AGM: The AAA is available to collaborate both with the FML and the AEFML, but on the other hand these two entities must make clear what they expect from it and what they would like the association to be. The association may also put forward some ideas that may or may not be of use.
RB: I hope to be in touch with the Dean of the FMUL in order to establish the best way to interact in relation to the issues we have put forward, as there has to be a symbiosis between our association, the FMUL and the AEFML. Above all, we are very pleased to see that for the first time there was recognition in the FMUL Statutes, in its Title V, Article 50 of the existence of and the role of the AAAFML as an integral part of the mission of the Faculty of Medicine.
Finally, and according to the words of Dr. Rui Bento in conversation with medi.com “(…) I believe that the AAAFML will successfully bring about all the aims it has, because in this team we have colleagues with great qualities in several different aspects. For example, we have a colleague who, besides being a graduate in medicine is also a lawyer, and practises both. Our General Secretary is an outstanding colleague, very active and creative. The vice-chairman, José Antunes, is the director of the newspaper “Tempo de Medicina”, which must be the newspaper most read by doctors. I trust that with this human quality that makes up the Diretion, other organs and members, the AAAFML has every reason to be proud of its role within the academic and medical community”.
Here are the contacts for the FML Alumni Association; our academic salutations for our colleagues in medicine.
Associação dos Antigos Alunos da Faculdade de Medicina de Lisboa Universidade de Lisboa
Address: Avª Prof. Egas Moniz
Tele: + 351 21 799 95 39
Internal Extension: 44007