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If we all do something, it will make the world a better place – Rida Hamdi nominated for ECHO Award

Published on 22-11-2022 12:10
UvA medical student Rida Hamdi is one of three UvA students who have been nominated for an ECHO Award, a prize for successful students with a non-Western background who stand out as a result of their entrepreneurial attitude, organisational capacity, active social involvement and constructive approach to challenges related to exclusion.
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Rida has already obtained a degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences and is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Medicine. He is a Student Diversity Officer for his faculty, a role in which he is committed to seeking and implementing new solutions in the areas of diversity and inclusion. In addition, he asks for attention to be paid to patient diversity within his degree programme. Rida is also very socially involved outside the UvA; for example, he has given homework supervision to pupils and taught refugee children how to breakdance.

Photo: Rida Hamdi
Rida Hamdi (photo: Mary Tupan-Wenno)

Congratulations on your nomination! What does it mean to you?

‘I think it’s great that I was nominated. In recent years, I’ve really focused on all kinds of things related to diversity and inclusion, and this nomination is a nice acknowledgement. I also think it’s important for initiative to be appreciated, because it could also motivate others to take action.’

Among other things, you work as a Student Diversity Officer at the Faculty of Medicine. What does that involve?

‘I was appointed Student Diversity Officer in March, together with another student. We’ve decided to do two things. On the one hand we want to uncover students' stories, for example about their experiences with social safety and discrimination. By comparing these personal stories with the resources that already exist in this area, we can determine how existing processes could be better aligned with the experiences of students. And on the other, we would like to take stock of the curriculum and modify it where necessary, including in terms of language use.’

In addition to making the curriculum more inclusive, you also want more attention to be paid to patient diversity. How are you doing that?

‘Lots of students have told me that during our degree programme, we mainly focus on white patients. The non-white patients we discuss are often related to a certain stereotype, such as diseases that are more common in specific population groups. Of course you can encounter these stereotypes, but they shouldn’t be the only thing we talk about. After all, we will also encounter plenty of non-stereotypical situations in practice.’

‘Take skin disorders, for example. When we talk about a skin disorder within the degree programme, we’re invariably talking about white skin. Patients who have a skin disorder but aren’t white are mentioned separately. For example, by suddenly talking about a “skin disorder of black skin”, you are making an assumption that the skin disorder is different, that this patient is not the norm. But that isn’t the case at all, it’s simply a patient with a skin disorder regardless of skin colour.’

‘We notice these kinds of issues during meetings that we organise with fellow students, where we discuss things that students encounter and things that they would like to see change. We then create presentations about these discussions and show them to the coordinators of the courses, in order to raise their awareness. The degree programme is already working on these issues in many areas, but there’s always room for improvement, and that’s what we are trying to demonstrate with these steps.’

You work on diversity and inclusion in many different areas. What would you like to communicate with your work on this topic?

‘A well-known statement immediately springs to mind: “Nobody can help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” Not everyone needs to have two jobs, to study and also to be socially involved in all kinds of initiatives. But I think it’s important for everyone to see for themselves what they are good at and how they can contribute. It doesn’t have to be a big project, even with a small impact you can already help to create an inclusive society. If we all do something, even if they are small steps, I think it will already make the world a better place. I’m also aware that I’ve been given opportunities that plenty of people aren’t given. That gives me the incentive and motivation to take advantage of all the opportunities I get. But I also think I was lucky. Some people can work as hard as they like, but if the conditions aren’t right working hard doesn’t immediately mean a positive outcome. Because I’m lucky enough to be in my position, I feel it is important to take as many people as possible with me every step of the way. Success isn’t just the product of hard work, but also of luck. So if you’re successful, I think you should share it with as many people as possible.’

About the ECHO Award

With the awards ceremony, the national expertise centre for diversity policy ECHO helps to shine a light on excellent students with a non-Western background who can contribute to creating equal opportunities for all. Winners are rewarded with a fully organised summer course at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the United States.