New University Counselor Dr. Ashraf Hatem: 'My Priority is to Listen'
With the beginning of a new school year, the AUC community welcomes Dr. Ashraf Hatem, the University’s new counselor. Hatem is joining AUC on a three-year tenure, after an extensive career that spans more than 30 years in the field of medicine and public and nonprofit medical administration. He was recently secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Universities and in the months following the 2011 revolution, he served as minister of health for a five-month term.
Though he earned his medical degree from the renowned Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University, AUC was always a subject of admiration for him. “For me, AUC has a long history, and has always been a dream,” Hatem said. “I decided to change my career from the public sector to the international nonprofit sector after 30 years, which is something I am excited about.”
The role of the counselor is typically liaising between Egyptian authorities and the University, including working on continuing to develop good relations between AUC, Egyptian institutions and the Supreme Council for Higher Education, as well as helping to implement the accreditation process for all academic degrees.
The counselor’s vision for AUC is brimming with innovative and constructive ideas, but before anything, his priority is to listen. “My priority is to meet everybody, listen, study, then emplace plans with them,” he said. “I will be meeting with students, the administration, faculty members, councils and the Board of Trustees. I cannot say there is a bigger priority now than to listen to everyone.”
Role of AUC in the Community
Hatem emphasizes that as AUC approaches its centennial, its academically rich history and resources make it a distinctive institution. Prior to his appointment, he closely examined the University’s curricula, which he believes is something Egypt needs. Before his experience and dedication to the public sector in Egyptian, at a young age, he witnessed AUC’s distinct methodology. “I remember my older brother and sister, who are AUCians, studying mass communication and engineering, but taking courses in theatre, cinema and art – I thought it was strange!” This unique and interdisciplinary approach in education changed his outlook on how institutions in Egypt can work together to create a greater outreach to the public.
His experience within both an administrative and academic setting has prepared him to have an analytical point of view in working with other institutions to expand and benefit the medical field in the country. One of his visions for AUC is offering a public health postgraduate degree, emphasizing that it would collectively benefit the Egyptian community and other universities as well. “It would be great to collaborate with other university hospitals in strengthening master’s programs in health, hospital and quality management,” he said. “There are programs here that are not available in other schools, so we need to explore and promote these with other universities and professionals in the medical field.”
Moreover, Hatem sees great potential in AUC’s role in the wider community, “A lot of people think AUC is a good place, but they also think we live in a bubble – so perhaps we need to work not just in neighborhoods, but in governorates and Upper Egypt and have an open dialogue,” he said.
The counselor sees the University as an institution that can confidently collaborate with the government in the new administrative capital, in terms of establishing international university branches. “They can see the history and see how AUC has survived for 100 years, with continuous progress,” Hatem explained.
After meeting with President Francis J. Ricciardone, Hatem noted that one of the topics of discussion was children with disabilities. “We thought of how AUC can help children and families in these situations: how to prepare the parents and siblings, and how to prepare them to deal with their children in their surroundings,” he explained. “Instead of having parents traveling abroad to find professional teachers for their children, we could have training here through AUC’s Graduate School of Education.”
As a practicing medical doctor, Hatem took up several positions at the medical administrative level. Currently, Hatem is a pulmonary professor of medicine, and previously, he was the deputy general manager for Kasr El Aini’s semiprivate French Hospital, director of Mubarak-Kohl Technical Institute of Nursing initiative and general manager for Cairo University’s Kasr El Aini Teaching Hospital.
His experience in medical administration entailed the management of one of the largest medical complexes in the region, serving approximately 2 million patients, supervising 16,000 employees and more than 4,500 faculty members. Mostly, the challenge came in the form of having a limited income from the government and depending on donors to keep the services running for the public.
He recalls the most challenging time was during the revolution and the months that followed when he was appointed minister of health during one of the most transformative months in Egyptian history. “We faced a lot of problems during and after the revolution,” he reflected. “Aside from the demonstrations, long periods of insecurity, there were a lot of casualties. It was a very difficult time to manage a public hospital, but emergency services at the time were one of the few stable services offered to people.”