The City that Loves You

Saif Rustum
Coordinator of Study Process Management Department

The Story Begins


My story with Georgia starts from 2012, when I was a second-year medical student in Jordan, in one of the biggest universities in the region, a student with big dreams and a bigger imagination, coming from a very diverse background. It was important for me to travel, and I was looking for new places to visit. I found some information about Georgia in one of the traveling forums, with the title “The Pearl of Caucasus”- a must see country. 


The plans went ahead and I arrived in Georgia for the first time. As soon as I arrived at the airport, I looked at the ground and I saw a writing “Tbilisi, The City That Loves You”, and the promise was kept, which made me decide to move to this amazing city. 

I was in the process of finding a Medical School to transfer to. I came across Tbilisi Medical Academy on the directory of the World Federation for Medical Education’s website, which took me to the Academy’s website. After some exploration of the website, the promo video caught my eyes, as it had beautiful shots of Georgia and interview clips of students and teachers. I remember that I watched it many times over and over again, after that and after all the reviews that I have read about Tbilisi Medical Academy (TMA), I decided that it was the one. 

At First Sight

At the very first moment that I lay my eyes on the old building, I started to doubt my decision since i have left a much bigger university with huge campus, but then a couple of days later, I noticed how everything was “just right”, and welcoming in this cozy space, with lots of wood, greenery, and most importantly the united team spirit. I knew I made the right decision, I understood that the greatness of a university is not measured by the size of the campus, and that was stratified even further throughout my years of study in the university, where I saw nothing but kindness, open doors, and full and continuous support from the administration and the teachers, to the point that I never felt that I was living in a foreign country with a foreign language, I felt like I was home, and I felt that TMA was my family, and that  that I have always belonged here.

From a Student to a Tutor

During my journey as a medical student, I have met many teachers that encouraged me to pursue medical education and teaching as my postgraduate goal.  I confessed my interest in teaching, and once again, I found nothing but full support from the staff, as I was offered the opportunity to start tutoring younger students, to get some experience and facilitate studying. That experience did not just strengthen my knowledge in medicine, but it also brought me closer to the issues and barriers that the students face during their studies, as I understood better how the students are loaded with work, and how teachers should relieve the stress that students have and make the learning experience more fun. 

TMA acknowledged my eagerness to invest my skills and   energy, and helped enhance my potential. Soon after I joined the curriculum committee along with my teachers, where I came to understand teaching and learning in a better way. It did not stop at that- I had the chance to be an integral part of the accreditation and authorization processes, which has taught me a lot about the intricacies of the Medical Curriculum and the study process planning and implementation. 

A loving acceptance

I fell in love with many things and people in Georgia, and TMA was one of them, it felt natural to me to be here, I couldn’t imagine myself in another place, I wanted to give back a fraction of the support and kindness that was shown to me,  to give back my energy and potential to a place that invested in me without asking about my background, religion, race, beliefs, and culture, but invested in me because it is the place where bright minds grow and mature, invested in me same as it invested in other students to ensure that they receive the best education in Georgia. 

That small image in my mind that I had as a student shattered once I started working here, and you might ask me why? I would simply answer that it was shattered because the real image is much bigger than what I had in mind, and the amazing staff and work ethics is much better than what I thought it was as a student. 

I was accepted into open arms without any barriers, even though I was still struggling with learning Georgian language, that did not stop anyone of the team to listen, understand and mentor me with grace and patience, none was forced or instructed to do so, but they did so ever so perfectly because each one of them knew how to bring spirit of the teamwork to life and that the team does not succeed without the whole team succeeding.

The love story continued, as it was not enough that I fell in love with the people, the land, the history, the language, and the food, as I met the love of my life, an amazing and smart Georgian girl, with a kind heart that fits the universe, which made me think that a country that has so much to give, giving back is the only fair way to go, and here we are, getting married and settling down in couple of months to spend the rest of our lives together and give back to this country together, as our next big plan is to create a shelter for homeless animals in Georgia. 

Together, We Can

I joined the team in one of the most difficult times, as the Coronavirus pandemic just started around the world with all the consequences that affected many of the students, and during those difficult times I saw a side of TMA and its staff that I have never seen before, the sleepless nights, the continuous support to the students, the intricate organization to bring students back, the human limits that were pushed in order to ensure that student education would not be interrupted even with the closure of the borders, the tears that were shed, the continuous observation and support whenever a student caught Covid-19. Those were all the human emotions that I, as a student, did not see very clearly before.

I once had a dream, to continue my studies in the U.S. just like my siblings, but TMA has taught me to draw my own dreams, draw my own goals, and here I am, sitting in the Dean’s Office working with, teaching, and guiding students along with my colleagues that never, not even once, made me feel that I did not belong here. Here I am, among my family and teammates, learning to become a better educator, better professional, better researcher, and a better person, growing as TMA grows.  It is now very clear to me that “Tbilisi loves you” is not the only phrase that is true, but also TMA Loves you!


Medicine and Art

Maka Zarnadze
Department of Microbiology, Associated Professor

What is the link between Medicine and Art? I have not thought about this topic until I received an interesting and a bit strange offer from my colleague.

Eka Kldiashvili, Vice-Rector in Research at TMA, offered to my colleagues and me to participate in a grant contest announced by the Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation. The contest was aimed at science popularization.
It felt a bit strange that we had to present the topic- Medicine and Art, in the contest. Since our team loves innovation and experimentation, we were not afraid of this challenge either and started working on the project. Preparing the project for the contest seemed quite difficult, there was enough textual and visual material to be found and processed. However, Eka looked so confident that we agreed. We gathered motivated lecturers and started looking for information about the correlation between medicine and art.

And indeed, in the process of working, we have recalled and found numerous examples of the interconnectedness and interaction of medicine and art, far more than we expected. We have found numerous examples where the worst pandemics and epidemics in human history are reflected in works of art; diseases that have long frightened the human race are among the masterpieces of famous artists (e.g. The work of Edward Munch - a dying child, where the sister of an artist with tuberculosis is depicted), and many artists have thus expressed sympathy for people obsessed with various severe diseases. Microbes indeed cause the most serious diseases, but at the same time it turns out it is possible to paint with bacteria and create microbial artwork. It turned out that the success of some artists was precisely due to its anatomical features, e.g. The violin virtuoso, Niccolo Paganini, was characterized by the unusual elasticity of the joints.

We did not think much about it. We applied for a foundation grant and started disseminating information about the interaction between medicine and art in the form of a lecture seminar for the students of the graduating classes (X, XI, XII). The information needed to be fun, visually attractive and delivered in an interactive manner.

In frames of the project, the participants were offered lecture seminars and had an opportunity to carry out simple experiments with their own hands in the research laboratory of the academy. They could, for example, draw with the bacteria, see different samples under a microscope, etc.

In the final part of the project, the students made presentations that reflected their vision of the integration of specific topics in medicine and art.
The project was successful. Its success was due to a well-delivered idea, academy lecturers, and, of course, motivated students.
The project is continuing to run. However, with a slightly different format and titled - "Medicine – the Story Presented by Art".
The project is important because new knowledge and creative thinking are born through the unification of medicine and art, interaction, which popularizes science among students.
We successfully use the examples of integration of medicine and art accumulated within the project in various training courses of the Academy's educational program. Such integration of medicine and art, on one hand, makes the teaching process through the interdisciplinary approach more interesting and creative, and on the other hand, promotes the development of critical thinking and empathy within the students, which is very important for future doctors.


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