“In the early 1980s with the introduction of heroin in Egypt and with the increasing number of patients with substance abuse, as well as the increased awareness about psychiatry and psychiatric disorders, I had a dream.
A dream that Egypt is in need of an Institute of Psychiatry, to provide care for patients, training for doctors and scientific research not just for Egypt, but for the entire Arab World. Many people thought that this would not be possible due to the shortage of finances in the government and university hospitals, especially that psychiatry and psychiatric patients usually come last on policy maker’s lists.
I have to admit that the establishing of the Institute of Psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine, Ain Shams University needed strong commitment, persistence and perseverance together with collaboration, planning and team work with all those who voluntarily helped to make this dream come true.
The Institute of Psychiatry was built through a personal initiative, charity money from many people who saw the importance of having such a project and the help of many people to make it a state of the art project regarding; construction, services, medical equipment and experienced personnel. I wanted it to be a pioneer project and an example for all of Africa and the Middle East.
The idea started in 1984 and the foundation stone was laid in 1988 by the first lady of Egypt then, Mrs. Suzan Mubarak and was inaugurated by the first lady in 1990, when the first patient was admitted and the outpatient clinics started their services.
Many people helped in this project starting from the late Dr. Alahmady Abou-El-Noor, the Minister of Awkaf at that time, who donated the land (6000 square meters) which belonged to his ministry on the ground of Ain Shams University Hospitals. This donation of land was facilitated and mediated via the late Dr. Refaat El-Mahgoub, the chairperson of the Egyptian Parliament then. The first charity donation was by myself followed by a media propaganda for donation, initiated after my meeting with the late journalist, Mr. Moustafa Amin and his campaign (Laylat El Kadr). The design of the Institute was donated by the late Prof. Farouk El Gohary Professor of Architecture at Faculty of Engineering in Ain Shams University, problems with the permit to start building at the site were solved by the Governor of Cairo at the time, the late Mr. Youssef Abou Taleb.
After a few months of construction, donation money was insufficient and we were in urgent need for government support to continue the project. I sought the help of the late writer, Mr. Sarwat Abbaza who kindly arranged for a meeting with the Minister of Planning then Dr. Kamal El-Ganzoury who asked why I was building such a project. I informed him that everyone should have access to psychiatric care even the poor who cannot pay for it and that it was the state’s responsibility to help provide such a service. Dr. El-Ganzoury informed me that the law states that if you are building a project for the state at a university hospital and have already paid and built one third of the project that the state would be able to help finance the rest, after the approval of the Minister of Higher Education and the President of the university since universities fall under his responsibility. I then went to the Minister of Higher Education then Dr. Ahmed Fathy Soroor who did not hesitate to give his approval, which allowed the ministry of planning to complete the financing of the project.
All this could have not happened without the help of my colleagues and students at the department of Psychiatry. Also, the latest EEG and Brain Mapping machine and sleep laboratory were donated by the Minister of Petroleum at the time, the late Chemist Abdel-Hady Kandil.
The dream finally came true with the help of all of those who worked hard to help me achieve it. The Institute of Psychiatry opened for work on 7th July 1990 and I was honored to chair it.
The Institute of Psychiatry consists of 4 floors and has a capacity of 70 beds with many outpatient clinics. The institute also teaches undergraduates and postgraduates and conducts research in the field of psychiatry and substance abuse.
In the 1993 the Institute was chosen to be a WHO Collaborating Center for Training and Research in Mental Health in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. Recently, in 2016 the Institute became a World Psychiatric Association (WPA) Collaborating Centre for Training and Research in Psychiatry.
In 2020, 30 years after the inauguration of the Institute, my colleagues and students at the Institute of Psychiatry as well as, the Director of Ain Shams University Hospitals Prof. Ayman Saleh, the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Prof. Ashraf Omar and the President of Ain Shams University Prof. Mahmoud El-Metini passed a decree from Ain Shams University Council naming the Institute after me, the “Okasha Institute of Psychiatry” which gave me a sense of self-actualization and fulfillment after working in the field of psychiatry for more than 60 years”.
Cairo, July, 2020