Posted on May 26, 2015

Four Qatari high school students will be heading off for a research experience in some of the world’s top laboratories after winning a competition run by Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q).

The four all competed in WCMC-Q’s annual Healing Hands essay contest that asks students to write an article about a given topic. This year the theme was ‘Coping with Disability’ with the entrants having to write an 800-word essay that focused on a particular condition and what could be done to improve the lives of those who have that condition. More than 30 entries were received and four students were chosen: Wadha Abdulrahman Al-Nabti, of Qatar Academy; Hend Nasser Al-Naimi, of Al Bayan Educational Complex for Girls; Shahad Abdula Al Sulaiti, of Qatar Academy; and Aliyaa Mohsin Haji, also of Qatar Academy.

Wadha wrote about autism, Hend about blindness, Shahad chose epilepsy and Aliyaa’s essay was also on blindness. Wadha said: “I want to be a doctor in the future and this is key to fulfilling that. I hope to achieve this dream through Weill Cornell and this is just the start. My parents are doctors, my grandmother wanted to be a doctor and my sister is already at WCMC-Q so she will become a doctor. Other than that, I hope that through this opportunity I will understand more about medicine – I just want a first person view so I can really understand what it’s like to be a doctor.”

Summer of research for Qatari 2 [].jpgAliyaa too already has strong links to WCMC-Q, her brothers having previously won the essay competition. She added: “I’m thinking of going into a medical career as I believe it will have a big impact on Qatar’s development. I think working in the laboratories with all the microscopes and understanding exactly what causes all the illnesses that we are focusing on will be the most interesting aspect of the trip.” Over summer the four students, along with one of their family members, will jet off to the United States to spend two weeks learning in research laboratories at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.

Dr. Javaid Sheikh, Dean of WCMC-Q, said the Healing Hands competition was an opportunity to really inspire young people to consider a career in science and medicine. He said: “This will be the experience of a lifetime for the winners. The opportunity to work in a professional research laboratory is one that few people will be exposed to. The students will gain an understanding about what the research process involves, the intellectual acuity that is required and the time and effort put in by research staff. I think they will find it truly inspirational.”

Summer of research for Qatari 3 [].jpgThe Healing Hands Essay Competition is now in its eighth year with the essays being judged by a team of faculty members from WCMC-Q. The competition is one of the many programs organized by the Office of Student Recruitment and Outreach at the medical college, to provide access to Qatari students and to encourage them to consider a career in medicine. Dr. Rachid Bendriss, Assistant Dean for Student Recruitment, Outreach and Foundation Programs, said the standard of essays is always high.

He said: “The panel of judges look for evidence of research and a deep understanding of the subject. The two weeks spent in the research laboratories in New York will be intellectually demanding so we want the very best candidates who will get the most out of the experience. Ultimately we hope to be able to inspire them to pursue a career in medicine.”

The four winners and family members will fly out to New York in July and everyone who entered the Healing Hands contest received a certificate of appreciation. Five also received an honorable mention: Mai Zaid AlShakhs of the International School of Choueifat; Al Hanoof Hamad AlJalahma, of Qatar Academy; Dana Faisal AlSayegh, of Al Bayan Educational Complex for Girls; Sara Mohammed Mohammed, of Al Wakra Independent Secondary School for Girls; and Aljazi Fahad Alahbabi of the Gulf English School.