Posted on January 30, 2017

In the most comprehensive change to its curriculum since the college began operations in 2002, Weill Cornell Medicine–Qatar (WCM-Q) has reviewed, revised and modernized its four-year Medical Program, bringing it into line with the curriculum taught at the home campus in New York.

The result is a new, highly integrated medical curriculum that stands among the most rigorous and progressive available anywhere in the world, said Dr. Javaid Sheikh, Dean of WCM-Q. “We feel very strongly that it is crucial for our institution to be at the forefront of positive innovation in medical education, which is why we are very proud and happy to announce the launch of our new medical curriculum,” said Dr. Sheikh. “The new curriculum has been carefully designed to produce tech-savvy, inquisitive and adaptive physicians who are able to assimilate new knowledge, engage in research and acquire new skills throughout their careers so that their patients benefit from advances in medicine as they occur. In short, it is a curriculum designed to produce world-class, 21st century physicians right here in Qatar.”

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The new curriculum is now being taught for the first time to WCM-Q’s most recent cohort of students, the Class of 2020, who began the WCM-Q four-year Medical Program in September 2016. The new program of study is the result of four years of painstaking review and consultation, which began at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York and was later applied in Qatar.

Dr. Thurayya Arayssi, Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education and Continuing Professional Development, explained: “The previous curriculum gave us an excellent model to adapt, so our aim was preserve the best of it, adapt and revise parts we felt needed to be updated, and introduce new material and teaching methodologies based on the latest research. This work was begun and led by our colleagues in New York and we then adapted it for our local needs; the new curriculum therefore brings the most up-to-date approaches to medical education available anywhere in the world to students in Qatar.”

The new curriculum gives students an earlier introduction to and increased focus on the development of Patient Care and Physicianship (PCP) skills, and makes increased use of hi-tech learning tools and Simulation-based Immersive Medicine (SIM) training in the college’s Clinical Skills Center, which is undergoing an extensive program of expansion and modernization. Other key features of the new curriculum include an enhanced level of integration between the three identified curriculum themes of Science, Patient Care and Physicianship, and the provision of a longitudinal research experience that starts from day one of the curriculum and concludes in the final year with an in-depth project conducted under the supervision of a faculty member.

The new curriculum broadly follows that of WCM-Q’s home campus in New York, with certain adaptations to fit local circumstances and maximize the benefits of WCM-Q’s particular strengths, such as its highly favorable student to faculty ratio, well-developed biomedical research program and support from Qatar Foundation. The new four-year medical curriculum is designed to follow on from the two-year WCM-Q pre-medical curriculum; together, the two curricula form the cohesive and comprehensive WCM-Q Six-Year Medical Program.

One of the most distinctive features of the new curriculum is the introduction to patient care and physicianship skills in the very first week of study. This is in contrast to traditional medical programs which typically spend a long time focused on theory before allowing students contact time with patients.

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Dr. Amine Rakab, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine and Assistant Dean for Clinical Learning, said: “For students who dream of the day they will become doctors, having experiences like this at an early stage in their training provides a tremendous boost to morale and motivation. The curriculum is designed to ensure that students acquire the same essential foundational knowledge, and to simultaneously teach them the core principles that they need to function as extremely competent physicians. We know from early feedback that students absolutely cherish these learning opportunities.”

Under the new curriculum, WCM-Q students will continue to gain crucial hands-on experience in clinical care at WCM-Q clinical affiliates Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), Aspetar, the Primary Health Care Corporation and the Feto Maternal Centre. In addition, a new clinical rotation has been established with Sidra Medical and Research Center, which is now hosting WCM-Q students on the Obstetrics and Gynecology Clerkship. Class of 2020 student Noora Al-Hail said of her experiences on the new curriculum so far: “What I like so far is that the curriculum seems so well-rounded. We are learning about many aspects of medicine rather than just one aspect at a time. There is also a culture that encourages the student to be a researcher and an explorer, which is very inspiring for us.”

Fellow Class of 2020 student Abdulla Al-Mulla said: “Meeting patients so early is extremely motivating. Of course, the science is vital, but for me everything in medicine depends upon the quality of the doctor-patient relationship. For this reason I am very happy to already be interacting with patients and learning how to reach out to them.”

Huda Alalami, also of the Class of 2020, said: “We have already been to the hospital four times and we have been allowed to do interviews with patients. What I love is that it feels like we are learning to become physicians, not just learning material to pass exams. It feels real and I feel very happy – it makes you feel like you made the right choice and you’re already making progress towards becoming a doctor.”