In a groundbreaking milestone for Qatar University (QU), Nour Farchoukh, a distinguished biomedical sciences graduate, has been awarded the prestigious Qatar Precision Health Institute (QPHI) scholarship. This distinction, according to an official statement from QU, marks her as the first-ever QU graduate selected for the Master of Science (MSc) programme in Genetic Counseling at the College of Health Sciences with QU Health.
Nour's achievement is a testament to the collaborative efforts between Qatar Genome, a member of the Qatar Foundation (QF), and QU. The scholarship, covering a two-year master's degree in genetic counseling signifies a remarkable step in fostering academic excellence and advancing genomic research in the region.
Dr Mashael al-Shafai, Director of Research and Graduate Studies at QU Health, expressed her enthusiasm for the programme. “The genetic counselling programme, initiated in 2018, aims to equip the healthcare sector in Qatar and the region with capable genetic counsellors possessing the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience to address the growing demands in genetics and genomics. The program includes taught courses, clinical placements, seminars, and research projects, providing students with a comprehensive learning experience over two years. This landmark achievement in 2022, where the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) officially recognised genetic counselling as a profession in Qatar, places Qatar ahead in the realm of genomics and healthcare globally” al-Shafai said.
“The admission cycle for fall 2024 is scheduled to begin in December 2023 and conclude in February 2024. The scholarship provided by the Qatar Genome highlights their commitment to enhancing human capacity in genetic counselling within Qatar, an essential element for advancing precision medicine. Importantly, our partnership with QPHI and QU Health goes beyond the scholarship, involving collaboration in genetic and genomic research, student access to QPHI genomic data, and joint participation in research projects and supervision. Our collaboration with Qatar Genome-QPHI is ongoing, and we see them as long-term partners. Together, we share a common goal and are working collaboratively towards positioning Qatar as a pioneer in the implementation of precision medicine.” she said.
Upon learning about her selection, Nour expressed her honour and gratitude for being chosen as the inaugural recipient of the QPHI scholarship. “The moment I found out about the sponsorship, I was thrilled and honoured. Dr. Mashael generously shared the specific criteria guiding the selection process for the QPHI scholarship: qualification, experience, and interview performance. Notably, the non-working student with the highest score would be chosen. This transparent insight into the assessment rubric deepened my appreciation for the privilege, and I am grateful to be the inaugural QU Health student receiving the QPHI scholarship,” Nour said.
Nour's passion for merging her biomedical sciences background with genetic counselling drives her commitment to contribute significantly to the field within the context of QPHI and QU Health. The QU Genetic Counseling program offers comprehensive training with clinical exposure at prominent healthcare institutions like Hamad Medical Corporation and Sidra Medicine, providing students with a holistic understanding of genetic complexities in Qatar.
Cultural sensitivity in genetic counselling is paramount, especially in Qatar's diverse healthcare landscape. Nour emphasised the significance of understanding various cultural backgrounds to ensure counselling services align with patients' beliefs while enhancing healthcare decision-making processes.
The official recognition of the profession of genetic counselling in Qatar in 2022 is a significant milestone. Nour expressed her pride in being part of this historical moment. “Being part of this milestone is not just a source of immense pride but also a call to action as it reflects the country's commitment to embrace genetic advancements and alleviate healthcare burdens,” Nour said.
Addressing the global shortage of genetic counsellors, Nour recognised the importance of making a meaningful impact. “As I progress in my genetic counselling career, I am dedicated not only to providing direct patient care but also to advocating for the profession. Through mentorship, educational initiatives, and outreach programmes, I aim to inspire and encourage others to join this specialised field,” she added.
Leveraging Qatar Genome's emphasis on collaboration and innovation, Nour is eager to contribute to the global genetic counselling community, bridging the counsellor gap in a dynamic environment. Nour expressed her eagerness to leverage this dynamic environment. “I am eager to leverage this dynamic environment to amplify my skills and contribute to the Qatari and global genetic counselling communities,” she said.
Nour expressed gratitude for the QPHI scholarship, empowering her to focus entirely on her education and pave the way for a successful career in genetic counselling.
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