Javaid I. Sheikh, Dean, WCMC
25 Feb 02:15 AMSector : Education Country : Qatar
How has WCMC-Q's mission expanded since opening in Doha in 2001? For instance, research seems to have taken on a much greater focus than several years ago.
The college’s mission remains the same but the breadth of the work done under that vision is remarkable and is testament to the hard work and conviction of everyone involved with WCMC.
From starting with 25 students we now have more than ten times that number and in the time we have been in operation we have graduated 181 new doctors. In terms of research, the work that is being done is astounding. It’s not necessarily that we have a greater focus on research, rather that the seeds that were sown just six years ago when the division was set up are already bearing fruit. The research program is already at a world-class level and is making impressive progress on a range of diseases. Finally, our outreach work has expanded exponentially and we are bringing greater understanding of good health and nutrition to thousands of people across the country through our health campaign Sahtak Awalan – Your Health First.
As the health sector undergoes revamping, HMC nears its expansion and with Sidra Hospital’s imminent opening, how does WCMC-Qatar role evolve or change as well its interaction with the two?
HMC will continue to be our primary partner in teaching our students and giving them experience in a clinical setting. Similarly, Sidra will provide additional opportunities for our students and will be a wonderful complement to HMC in the area of women and children’s health.
WCMC-Q has a state-of-the-art biomedical research program focused on tackling the most pressing health needs in Qatar and the region. Can you tell us more about it?
Where do I begin? In a nutshell, WCMC-Q’s research program is focused upon cancer, cardiovascular illnesses and diseases of the metabolic system, like diabetes.
Just a few of our recent successes include the possibility of a new, non-invasive test for diabetes; a potentially revolutionary way of controlling cholesterol levels; and the creation of a metabolic map - essentially an atlas identifying the genes that influence how the body keeps our blood levels of sugars, fats and amino acids in balance.
What other research is WCMC-Q involved in? Have you had any grants from the NPRP?
WCMC-Q has 36 active research laboratories so there is a multitude of research. One area of particular interest is the mapping of the Qatari genome. With colleagues at HMC, WCMC in New York and Cornell University in Ithaca, we have discovered genetic variants that could help doctors target interventions to reduce the prevalence of a variety of debilitating hereditary disorders.
With reference to the National Priorities Research Program (NPRP), WCMC-Q has been very successful in its bids and we are very grateful for the support the NPRP has given us. Examples of research done with its help include the mapping of the both the oryx genome and the date palm. We have also recently made new discoveries about the role of calcium in biological processes that underpin almost all aspects of life. This is fundamental science so it’s very exciting and it’s testament to the NPRP funding program.
In 2002, there were 25 first year pre-medical students enrolled at WCMC-Q. That number grew to over 265 students from more than 30 countries in 2012. What are the numbers today – including faculty - and what do you forecast student numbers to be in say five years?
At the start of the 2014-2015 academic year we had a total of 288 students and 68 faculty members based at the college. In addition there were 314 faculty members who are employed by affiliated and other institutions.
There are no current plans to actively increase the number of students that we have so I believe that in five years’ time the numbers will be similar. There are approximately 40 students in each year group and this means we are able to choose the very best applicants and give them the kind of education and academic support that is unrivalled in the world.
Where did most graduates end up working or studying? Do you already see them contributing to the development of the health sector in Qatar?
It is really still too early say. Our first class of doctors only graduated in 2008 but residency courses – where physicians specialize – last several years so the vast majority of our students are still training in hospitals. At the moment, most of our graduates are on residencies in the United States but a significant number are working at HMC. Obviously these doctors are already contributing to the health sector in Qatar and in a few more years I am confident that many of our graduates will return from the U.S to clinical positions in Qatar.