From Fiji Times Online (26 April 2007)

Dedicated to science, health

by Dr Joji Malani and Others

THE passing away of Dr Jimione Samisoni allows us to reflect on an outstanding achievement and contribution to science and health, to the people of Fiji and to the region.

Although he is known for his final role in medicine as the former Dean of the Fiji School of Medicine, he will also be remembered for his warm personality, intuitiveness and human touch.

It is through these human qualities that he was able to travel the journey of science, health and medical education.

Until his passing away, Dr Samisoni was closely related to the subject of science from an early age when he joined the Central Medical School in 1953 from Lelean Memorial School, after passing the Cambridge Leaving Certificate in 1949.

After four years at the Fiji School of Medicine, he received a WHO fellowship to study at the University of Otago.

In 1959, he graduated as a Bachelor of Medical Science (Physiology).

In pursuing his interest in science, he went to the University of Queensland where he acquired his Master of Science in 1959. Following this, he did part-time studies and during this period studied for his Doctor of Philosophy which he received in 1972. He was also completing the last three years of his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree with which he graduated in 1973.

From 1973 to 1979, he worked with the South Queensland Hospital Board in various capacities as a house surgeon.

Later, he joined the Griffith University in Brisbane as a senior lecturer. It is from this time that Dr Samisoni developed a major interest in medical education. He was an important part of a team that developed and established the curriculum for the physiology department.

He returned to Fiji in 1980 and joined the Fiji School of Medicine as a chief medical officer and deputy dean. He was responsible for Basic Science teaching to undergraduates and primary health care students. In 1984, he did consultancy work for the UNICEF and WHO. In this regional role, he rapidly became aware of the needs of Pacific people with respect to primary health care.

In 1987, Dr Samisoni joined the John A Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii as an assistant clinical professor. The John A Burns School of Medicine was funded by the US Federal Government to run a satellite medical school, The Pacific Basin Medical Officers Training Program, which eventually trained more than 70 local doctors for the US-associated Pacific Island Territories.

Dr Samisoni became the associate director of the program, a role he fulfiled admirably. He provided the needed direction and support in its establishment, curriculum development and program direction.

He returned to Fiji in 1990 and became the academic dean of the Fiji School of Medicine. In 1991 he became the head of the Fiji School of Medicine.

With the wealth of experience together with his vision for medical education in Fiji, Dr Samisoni was instrumental in implementing important administrative and curriculum developments which laid the foundation for the Fiji School of Medicine's courses today.

Dr Samisoni had great interest in the process of student learning and was instrumental in introducing problem based learning to the curriculum, even earlier than most medical schools in Australia and New Zealand. Reflecting his determination, he was able to withstand the negative pressures from the medical fraternity in Fiji who were against the change in the curriculum. Today, many medical schools abroad have changed to a PBL curriculum or a derivative of it.

He was able to negotiate to have the FSM administration independent and autonomous from the Fiji Government, a move that was done to improve its daily function and administration.

Because of limitations in the FSM's class sizes and facilities, particularly with the increasing intake of medical and para-medical students, he initiated discussions with the European Union for the construction of a new campus. The Pacifica Campus was occupied for the first time in 2004 and is situated opposite the emergency department of CWM Hospital.

Having achieved most of his vision in medical education for Fiji and the Pacific Islands, Dr Samisoni realised that although the needs for undergraduate education and training were being achieved, there was a severe lack of qualified local specialists.

Most Fiji nationals sent overseas for training failed to return.

He was then pivotal in the outcome of the WHO sponsored Yanuca Accord in 1995.

In this meeting, all health ministers from the Pacific, together with WHO, requested that AUSAID be responsible for funding the historical establishment of the postgraduate training program at FSM.

Since 1998, doctors have graduated with diplomas and masters degrees in various disciplines and are now serving in specialist capacities in Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Samoa.

Dr Samisoni retired from the FSM in December 1998 after achieving his visions in health and science and allowing the medical school to enter a new phase of development. He leaves behind a very large footprint in health and medical education.

He travelled life through his interest in science, health and education and built the platform on which those who remain continue to realise his vision.

Dr Jimione Samisoni is sadly missed by his family, his many colleagues, his faculty and his ex-students around the Pacific, and beyond.