Like many other countries around the world, emergency medicine has proven to be one of the fastest-growing specialties, including in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE government’s support took the country to another level and on Aug. 28, 2012, the Emirates Society of Emergency Medicine (ESEM) was established by a group of emergency physicians who recognized the necessity for a unified body dedicated to the advancement of emergency medicine practice and research. The official inauguration of ESEM occurred during the 10th Middle East Emergency Medicine Conference in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 14, 2012. This marked the culmination of concerted efforts to gather the specialty under one umbrella, paving the way for shared visions and collaborative strides in improving emergency medicine in the region.
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The founding of ESEM was greeted with enthusiastic support from the emergency medicine community. Under the leadership of Dr. Saleh Fares Al-Ali, the first emergency physician from UAE to be certified by both the Canadian and American boards, the organization grew exponentially. Dr. Fares Al-Ali, who was later awarded the MEMC19 Founders Award during the Mediterranean Emergency Medicine Congress, dedicated the award to all Emergency Providers in the UAE and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region.
ESEM is committed to educating physicians, raising awareness of emergency medicine, and fostering collaboration among professionals in the field. Over the years, its range of initiatives has solidified its position as a pioneering institution. In alignment with ESEM’s mission to enhance and broaden the scope of emergency medicine in the United Arab Emirates, the society has conducted a large number of educational activities over the last decade. A notable achievement was ESEM’s co-organization of the International Federation of Emergency Medicine Trauma Update Symposium in 2015. These initiatives aim to equip physicians with an evidence-based approach and effective management strategies for common emergency-department scenarios.
ESEM hosted the second Global Network Collaborative Conference on Emergency Medicine in 2013 and organized its first large scientific conference in Dubai in December 2014. Since then, ESEM has been a consistent contributor in the field, organizing and participating in more than 48 conferences, along with its annual scientific conference. ESEM’s growth over the past years has been exceptional, marked by the implementation of community outreach programs and various social activities. These initiatives have helped expand ESEM’s reach and impact, demonstrating its unwavering commitment to improving emergency medicine services in the United Arab Emirates. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ESEM swiftly took action to support the health care community. Recognizing the dire need for effective strategies, ESEM issued a comprehensive position statement detailing procedures for emergency departments and hospitals to effectively confront the health care challenges induced by the pandemic. Further, it participated in international virtual roundtables on COVID-19 to contribute expertise to the global conversation. ESEM hosted a series of informative webinars to facilitate knowledge sharing among the medical community, thereby playing an instrumental role in shaping a robust response to the crisis.
Over the past decade, ESEM has achieved numerous milestones. In December 2014, ESEM brought together a group of local emergency physicians with specialized training in emergency ultrasound, establishing the emergency ultrasound committee, a key step in ESEM’s mission to maintain the highest practice standards and promote professional growth in emergency medicine within the UAE. Further, in 2015, ESEM proudly won the bid to host the International Conference on Emergency Medicine (ICEM 2021). In May 2018, ESEM was hailed as one of the most active societies within Emirates Medical Association and had the opportunity to attend the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Bahrain to examine the medical aspects of managing such a major event.
In terms of collaborations, ESEM joined forces with the Emirates Cardiac Society (ECS), Emirates Anaesthesia Society (EAS), Emirates Society of Neurological Surgeons (ESNS), and the Emirates Critical Care Society (ECCS) to establish the Emirates Resuscitation Council (ERC). Further highlights included participating in setting a new Guinness World Record with the CPR Relay in Dubai in 2019, joining Medutopia in their efforts to modernize medical education, and winning the bid to host the Asian Conference on Emergency Medicine (ACEM) 2025 in Dubai.
ESEM continues to further emergency medicine in the region through annual outreach activities, extending its influence beyond the major hubs of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Of particular note was ESEM’s role in helping the UAE become the first Arab nation to pass a “good samaritan law,” by the approval of the late His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. ESEM also initiated the establishment of the Emirates Collaboration for Residents in Emergency Medicine (ECREM), a non-profit organization devoted to advancing emergency medicine training among resident doctors in the UAE. Lastly, the launch of the International Federation of Emergency Medicine leadership and advocacy skills development program marks a collaboration between ESEM and IFEM, and exemplifies ESEM’s dedication to promoting innovative medical practices.
Launched in 2013, the bi-annual newsletter from ESEM marked a significant stride in promoting the field of emergency medicine in the Middle East. Designed and curated by a dedicated team of nine committee members, the newsletter met with a positive reception, showcasing notable national and international advancements in emergency medicine. Given the success of the bi-annual format, it was evident that there was an appetite for more regular updates. Consequently, in March 2018, ESEM initiated a monthly edition of the newsletter. Within just 10 months of its introduction, the monthly newsletter has captivated an extensive readership that stretches across over 20 countries worldwide, including the likes of the US, UAE, UK, Australia, Canada, Pakistan, and India.
In reflecting on a decade of remarkable progress and commitment, ESEM’s journey is a testament to the power of collaboration, learning, and innovation. Amidst adversity, ESEM has stood as a pillar of strength for the emergency medicine community, fostering a robust response to unprecedented health care challenges. With achievements spanning from successful international symposiums and conferences to the drafting of transformative laws, ESEM has been instrumental in pioneering changes in the field. The society has not only impacted the local medical scene, but through its extensive newsletter, it has also reached all corners of the globe, showcasing the UAE’s significant strides in emergency medicine. As ESEM steps into the future, it carries forward the spirit of unity, the pursuit of excellence, and the aspiration to keep serving and improving emergency medicine in the UAE and beyond.
Dr. Buhumaid is the designated institutional official and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine & Health Sciences in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.