Ramadan event brings medical professionals together
A group of Muslim medical students, residents and physicians gathered on the Bannatyne campus last month to break their fast during Ramadan.
The University of Manitoba chapter of the Muslim Medical Association of Canada (MMAC), in partnership with Doctors Manitoba, held an iftar meal in the Joe Doupe Concourse. Iftar is the meal Muslims eat at sundown to break their daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
Forty people attended the event, including invited faculty and Dr. Peter Nickerson, vice-provost (health sciences) and dean, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.
The fast was broken with dates and the meal was catered by Alsham Food Market, which included samosas, rice, chicken and dessert. There were also speeches about the importance of Ramadan and what it means to be Muslim in medicine.
“Ramadan is a time when we’re encouraged to gather with others in our community and connect with each other,” said Murtaza Jafri, a second-year medical student and one of the event’s organizers. “There are out-of-province medical students who don’t have family here and they celebrate Ramadan alone, so we really wanted to give people an opportunity to open their fast with the community.”
As well as gathering in prayer and breaking their fast, the event was a way for Muslim medical students to meet physicians and residents who share their faith, said Jafri, adding that the UM chapter of MMAC aims to create mentorship opportunities for learners while building community.
Mirha Zohair, a second-year medical student and one of the event’s organizers, said they came together to reflect on the fact that they’re all fasting and that they’re all helping people as health-care workers, which is in itself a part of their religion.
“There’s a disconnect that a lot of us feel because we’re spending all of our time on campus or all of our time in the hospital, and sometimes it doesn’t feel like we’re celebrating Ramadan,” Zohair said. “But it reminds us that if we’re helping the sick and helping people who are in need, that in itself is an act of worship. There’s nothing better to be doing if you’re fasting than helping others.”
Dr. Faisal Siddiqui, assistant professor and associate head, educational affairs, department of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at the Max Rady College of Medicine, attended the event. He said that with the increased interest in equity, diversity and inclusion in medical training, events like this allow self-identified people to gather and share their common experiences.
“The sense of community that occurs from events like this has an intangible benefit for the care of patients in Manitoba,” Siddiqui said. “In this context, the Muslim community hosted members of the Muslim community as well as people in leadership in the medical school. If other groups in the health-care professions choose to have culture-focused events inviting the health-care community, it may improve the understanding of the diversity that makes our communities so vibrant.”
The organizers said they have plans to hold the iftar event again next year.