Oxford’s recognition of individuals can promote their recognition at home

June 27, 2017

Sir Iain Chalmers

Dr Khamis Elessi










I am proud to know Dr Khamis Elessi, one of the recipients of the 2017 Kellogg College Community Engagement and Academic Merit Awards, who is studying for an MSc in Evidence-Based Health Care. The citation associated with the Award reads as follows:

“Khamis has introduced and promoted Evidence-Based Medicine in the Gaza Strip, Palestine, an area with limited resources and which has been under a strict siege for the past ten years. Since 2009 Khamis has promoted the concepts of EBHC by teaching medical students, practising physicians and healthcare providers. Khamis was the principle organiser of the first national conference in Palestine on EBHC. The success of this led to Khamis co-ordinating a second conference and acting as a trainer for pre-conference workshops. These achievements are all the more impressive given the adverse conditions of life in Gaza.”

My failed efforts to promote Evidence-Based Health Care in Palestine 

Over ten years from 1999, I tried and failed to provoke interest in Palestine in Evidence-Based Medicine. After learning about my unproductive efforts, a Palestinian in Gaza with a PhD in basic medical science from Imperial College London and Khamis contacted me by email to ask for my help. I asked them to send me a summary explaining why they were interested in EBM, and their curricula vitae.  Both of them did so, but in both cases their drafting was sloppy and I told them that this had created a very bad impression.

The one with the PhD wrote back to say that he had decided he would not be able to meet my expectations. By contrast, Khamis thanked me for my criticism, agreed that it was justified, and committed trying to do a better job in future. I met Khamis in Gaza the following year, 2009. I was astonished that, despite the isolation forced on the people of Gaza by the 10-year siege imposed by Israel and Egypt, he had managed to teach himself enough about EBM to prepare a very impressive lecture on the subject for medical students.

Khamis signs his emails ‘Happy Learner’, and he has remained happily determined in his teaching to confront the adversity forced on the 2 million people of Gaza. However, the difficulties facing any pioneer trying to promote EBM exist anywhere where the principal obstacle is dismissiveness by medical establishments that feel threatened and defensive when challenged by the EBM way of thinking. Carl Heneghan and others at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine in Oxford have recognised the particular difficulties facing Khamis in Gaza and they have supported him in a number of ways.  However, since the death of Dr Mofeed Mokhalati (previously dean of one of the medical schools and a minister of health), support from members of the medical establishment for Khamis’s efforts to promote EBM in Gaza has not been strong.

Recognition of Khamis in Gaza after his recognition in Oxford  

I was in Gaza when the news arrived that Khamis had won a 2017 Kellogg College Community Engagement and Academic Merit Award. Not only did he receive congratulations from fellow medics, students and others, but public media were also interested in finding out more about why he had been honoured in Oxford.

Khamis was interviewed for several satellite TV channels during prime time shows, and for newspapers and news websites. The interviews tended to focus on the following themes:

  • A summary of the Award from Kellogg College, University of Oxford
  • Efforts to promote Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) in Palestine.
  • Some simple definitions of EBM
  • Some applications of EBM in practice
  • The benefits of applying EBM
  • Advice to the Minister of Health in Gaza and other decision makers
  • A message to Palestinian medical students and practising doctors

For those who understand Arabic, Khamis’ TV interviews can be viewed here:

Coverage of his promotion of EBM in Newspapers and News websites is available here:

Khamis is a worthy awardee of a 2017 Kellogg College Community Engagement and Academic Merit Award. Unlike some of his medical colleagues in Gaza and some of the medical students he has helped, Khamis is unarrogant, generous in the many efforts he makes to help others, and determined to remain a ‘Happy Learner’. It has been a pleasure for me to watch the recognition he is now receiving as a result of the Kellogg College award.

– Sir Iain Chalmers

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