QU collaborations seek to develop national capacities in life sciences
January 23 2020 09:57 PM
Officials at the signing ceremony.
Officials at the signing ceremony.

Empower Generations Consortium at QU signs a number of MoUs with national and international health care, research and education institutes

Qatar University (QU), through its Empower Generations Consortium, a project that directs secondary student interest towards careers in life and biomedical sciences, signed a number of memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with its partners in health care and education sectors.

The MoUs’ aim to build national capacities in life sciences and health care through collaborative initiatives. QU president Dr Hassan al-Derham signed three individual MoUs with project partner Al-Gannas Qatari Society, represented by its president Ali Khatem al-Mehshadi.

QU’s vice president for Medical and Health Sciences and dean of the College of Medicine, Dr Egon Toft, signed MoUs with seven additional partners, including two international institutes: FractalUp for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Core Africa project for research excellence. Local institutes include Sidra Medicine, represented by chair of the Transition Committee and board member Mohamed al-Mana; Equine Veterinary Medical Centre, represented by executive director of Strategy, Administration and Projects, Hisham E Nourin; Qatar Biobank, represented by its director, Dr Nahla Afifi; and Qatar Genome, represented by director of the Qatar Genome Project, Dr Said Ismail.

“This collaborative initiative is coherent to the institutional strategies, the sustainable development agenda and Qatar National Vision 2030. We aim to invest in the new generation and build stronger societies through international and national collaborations in the field of applied science and education,” Dr al-Derham said.

“This consortium is the first of its kind in the Middle East in terms of content and operating mechanism, and among the rare projects that aspire for sustainable outcomes by employing statistical means to reflect its value and effectiveness,” he added. Prof Asmaa al-Thani, founder of the Empower Generations Consortium, former and founding dean of the College of Health Sciences, director of Biomedical Research Centre, chair of Qatar Genome Programme Committee and board vice chairperson of Qatar Biobank, shed light on the history of the consortium and its positive impact on Qatar’s national capacities. “The consortium so far enrolled 646 Qatari students from 2013 to 2018, and more than 3,500 students were impacted. The project has reached 100% of the schools in Qatar and achieved 96% participation,” she said.

The project also documented a 10% annual increase in science major enrollments at QU (9% in 2013, 19.6% in 2014, 21% in 2015, 37% in 2016, 46% in 2017 and 49% in 2018). This reflects 6.5-8% increase in the entry level to the science and health care sector in 2022. QU’s College of Health Sciences dean Dr Hanan Abdul Rahim reiterated the commitment to building national capacities in the careers of life sciences and health care.

“With the consortium and this wide array of national and international collaborations, the college is working to show young men and women the exciting opportunities they can find in health care and in health research,” the Dean said.

Al-Mana said: “As an academic health care organisation, Sidra Medicine takes an active role in preparing today’s students to become tomorrow’s health care professionals and researchers. Through our joint collaboration with QU, we hope to further build national capacity, in line with Qatar National Vision 2030, so that more of our youth will consider careers in the field of health care, biomedical and life sciences.”

Al Mehshadi said: “The Empower Generation Consortium at QU is a pioneering initiative that aims to attract Qatar’s younger generation to move towards scientific disciplines, which have the power to protect the country’s environment and heritage.”

Nourin said: “The Equine Veterinary Medical Centre, an entity of Qatar Foundation, is very proud to be part of this initiative. Creating awareness among the young Qatari population of the advances that have been made in equine veterinary medicine is crucial for both the development of animal health and the advancement of research in Qatar and the region.”

Dr Afifi said: “Qatar Biobank works to create a healthier local population as envisioned in the country’s national health strategy in line with Qatar National Vision 2030. It is therefore critical that the nation’s youth undertake and understand biobanking and the relevant fields, so the next generation of health care providers and practitioners can build on the excellent work we have already done.”

Dr Said Ismail said: “One of our main pillars is building human capacity, and we shoulder the responsibility of not only inspiring, but also supporting the young generation in choosing a career in precision medicine. There is a growing need both locally and internationally for human talent in this field and all its related specialties.”

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