Online panel discussion on Tuesday 22 June on the Middle East and COVID-19 with Dr. Yara Asi, post-doctoral scholar in health management, Professor of Political Science Dr. Bessma Momani and journalist and the Guardian's former Middle East Editor, Brian Whitaker. The panel was moderated by Scottish National Party (SNP) MP and health spokesperson and consultant breast surgeon, Dr. Philippa Whitford.

The panel looked at the challenges that Covid-19 poses for the region, how differing governments have responded and how just the region can recover from a pandemic that has hit every aspect of life for millions of people.

About the speakers

Dr. Yara M. Asi is a Post-Doctoral scholar at the University of Central Florida, where she has taught in the Department of Health Management and Informatics for more than 6 years. She is a 2020-2021 Fulbright US Scholar to the West Bank. Her research focuses on global health and development in fragile and conflict-affected populations. Along with working at one of the first accountable care organizations in the United States, she has also worked with Amnesty International USA, the Arab Center Washington DC, the Palestinian American Research Center, and Al-Shabaka: Palestinian Policy Network on policy and outreach issues. She has presented on topics related to global health, food security, health informatics, and women in healthcare, and has published extensively her research in journal articles, book chapters, and other outlets. Dr. Asi's forthcoming book with Johns Hopkins University Press is about the threats war and conflict pose to public health and human security.

She Tweets @Yara_M_Asi.

Dr. Bessma Momani is Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo.

She is also a Senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance and Innovation (CIGI), and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, D.C. She was a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at both the Brookings Institution and Stimson Center in Washington, D.C., a consultant to the International Monetary Fund, and formerly a visiting scholar at Georgetown University's Mortara Center. She was a 2015 Fellow of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and now sits on its board of directors. She is also a Fulbright Scholar. Dr. Momani currently sits on the National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG) to advise the Deputy Minister of Public Safety Canada and other Government officials on improving transparency to Canada's national security and intelligence departments and agencies.

She has authored and co-edited ten books and over 80 scholarly, peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters that have examined international affairs, diversity and inclusion, Middle East affairs, and the global economy. She is recipient of a number of research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), International Development Research Council, and the Department of National Defence. Dr. Momani is a regular contributor to national and international media on global security and economic policy issues. She has written editorials for the New York Times, The Economist, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, Newsweek, and Time Magazine.

Brian Whitaker is a former Middle East Editor of the Guardian. He blogs at where he tracked the course of Covid-19 in the region from the beginning of the outbreak.

He is the author of Arabs Without God: Atheism and Freedom of Belief in the Middle East, What’s Really Wrong with the Middle East and Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East, which was shortlisted for the Lambda Literary Award in 2006.

About the chair

Originally from Belfast, Dr. Philippa Whitford trained mostly around the West of Scotland. She spent two years working as a medical volunteer in the Middle East. Most of this time was based at a UN sponsored hospital in Gaza, Palestine with a few months in Lebanon planning development projects after the war. Philippa’s interest and involvement in patients with breast cancer developed early in her career and her Doctorate research was on Breast Cancer Immunology and monoclonal antibodies.

She was a consultant breast surgeon for just over 15 years in Ayrshire and Arran and during that time had been Lead Clinician for that health board and was Lead Clinician of the West of Scotland MCN from 2006 to 2009.

Philippa was involved in the first SIGN guidelines for breast cancer and chaired the breast cancer project groups of the Clinical Standards Board for Scotland and, later, NHS QIS. Her special interest has been in improving services through peer reviewed audit, service redesign and the development of clinical standards.

Elected in May 2015, she is the Member of Parliament for Central Ayrshire and sat on the Health Select Committee. Philippa is the Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Health).


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Dr. Yara M. Asi is an Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida in the School of Global Health Management and Informatics. Her research...
Tuesday, Jun 22, 2021

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