Celebrating 100 Years of the School of Midwifery

Thursday, June 8, 2023

The School of Midwifery (ESF) of the Faculty of Medicine (FM) at Saint Joseph University (USJ) celebrated its centenary in the presence of H.E. Dr. Firas Abiad, Minister of Public Health (MoPH), H.E. Mr. Abbas al-Halabi, Minister of Education and Higher Education (MEHE), Prof. Salim Daccache S.J., USJ Rector, Prof. Roland Tomb, FM Dean, Dr. Issa Farkh, ESF Director, the guest of honor, Mr. Yves Doutriaux, President of the National Disciplinary Chamber of Midwives in France (la Chambre nationale de discipline des sages femmes), syndicate presidents, USJ officials, trade union and civil society figures, as well as ESF students, professors, alumni, and friends.

Dr. Issa Farkh emphasized in his opening speech that the ESF building, which was built 100 years ago, represents a solid pillar for a young, ambitious, promising, and ever-evolving future. Firmly steering away from delving into the annals of the School’s history, including notable events such as the Ottoman occupation or the hardships endured during World War II, Dr. Farkh imparted a profound lesson: the importance of duty and the refusal to succumb to the whims of extraordinary circumstances.

Prof. Roland Tomb, FM Dean, recalls the School of Midwifery’s distant beginnings. He mentioned an interview in 1896 when the idea of awarding the FM a midwifery diploma was first discussed. However, it took 27 years for the midwifery school to be established. It began in a small structure near the Daughters of Charity (les Filles de la Charité) Hospital in Azarieh, adjacent to the maternity hospital. It was transferred to the French Maternity Hospital in 1939, then to the Daughters of Charity premises in 1981, before finally settling on the Medical Sciences Campus and joining the Faculty of Medicine in 1991. Prof. Tomb emphasized the importance of midwives and expressed his support for them, recalling a time in his childhood when he always sided with them.

Pr. Salim Daccache S.J., USJ Rector, emphasized the significance of honoring those who contributed to the past and future of ESF and USJ. He refers to the determination, conviction, and passion that drove the establishment of the University’s various institutions in response to the population’s urgent needs. Today, as the School celebrates its centennial, he believes it is appropriate to highlight the role of university-educated midwives and the services they provide to society. He emphasized that, despite the challenges, midwives continue to carry out their mission with broad responsibilities but without adequate recognition. He raised concerns about the uncertain standing of midwives, which has been detrimental to their profession. He stressed on the critical need to rectify this situation by restoring their rightful status and equipping them with the necessary resources to excel, gain recognition, and emerge as an indispensable authority in their field.

Dr. Firas Abiad, Minister of Public Health, confirmed that his Ministry places a high value on the School of Midwifery because “on the one hand, it belongs to a prestigious university, and on the other hand, the Ministry is fully aware of the fundamental role that midwives play in the field of health and care for mothers and newborns.”

“Education has always had a transformative force that drives societies forward and shapes the path of nations,” stated Abiad. “The School of Midwifery exemplifies the power of education in advancing healthcare by fostering a culture of empathy, experience, and professionalism, as well as preparing midwives to be trusted caregivers for mothers and their babies.”

“One hundred years ago,” says the Minister of Education and Higher Education, Mr. Abbas al-Halabi, “the midwife was an ordinary local woman armed with inherited wisdom and uncomplicated expertise. However, with the evolution of medicine and nursing, this profession evolved to become a recognized profession after the establishment of the ESF, which contributed to saving the lives of mothers and children and developing the lives of families.”

“Lebanon’s modern and contemporary history,” he highlighted, “has been built in large part by personalities from the amphitheaters of this University, which has charted a clear course in the preparation of the younger generation, nationally, scientifically, culturally, and socially.”

Following a speech by H.E. Mr. Jack Lang, President of the Arab World Institute (Institut du Monde Arabe) and former French Minister of Culture, who paid a heartfelt tribute to the ESF, a musical interlude preceded the screening of a film commemorating the School’s centennial, followed by a speech by Doutriaux on the theme of “Ethics in Regulated Professions and the Role of Syndicates,” illustrating his presentation with examples from recent decisions by the National Disciplinary Chamber of Midwives in France. It is also worth noting that the Lebanese Order of Nurses was founded several years before the establishment of a similar order in France.

Mrs. Nayla Abou Malham Doughane, Honorary ESF Director, then paid tribute to Mrs. Rose Bassile, calling her a “visionary, a pioneer, an exceptional figure who left an indelible mark on the history of the School and the profession” before presenting centennial medals to the USJ Rector, the FM Dean, Mr. Yves Doutriaux, and Mrs. Désirée Bassile, Mrs. Rose Bassile’s niece.

During a thank-you visit, Dr. Farkh will present the centennial medals to their Excellencies, Abiad and al-Halabi.

The ceremony was concluded with a reception in the gardens of the Medical Sciences Campus.

Read also: Centenaire de l’Ecole de sages-femmes

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