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Faculty member appointed as Qatar’s national representative to Europe’s largest healthcare communications society

Dr. Alan S. Weber, visiting professor of English at WCM-Q has been appointed as Qatar’s National Representative to the International Association for Communication in Healthcare (EACH).

Dr. Weber’s duties will include advising the executive council on regional issues related to communications standards, training programs, research, and initiatives in Qatar’s healthcare institutions and medical colleges.

EACH is a non-profit communications society headquartered in the UK which is active in promoting research and training in language issues, provider-patient relations, medical ethics, clinical interviewing, medical humanities, and cultural sensitivity. The primary goal of the organization is “promoting the development of healthcare communication research and education to improve the quality of communication in healthcare globally and hence improve the health outcomes of the general public.”

Dr. Weber plans on examining healthcare communications in Qatar.

EACH’s sister organization in the United States is the American Academy on Communication in Healthcare, and together they jointly sponsor the yearly International Conference on Communication in Healthcare which alternates in location between North America and Europe. The associations also publish the peer-reviewed journal Patient Education and Counseling (Elsevier), the highest impact factor journal in the field.

Dr. Weber has been an active member of these organizations for several years and regularly presents his research on humanism in medicine at their meetings. He previously taught scientific and technical writing at the Pennsylvania State University and Cornell University, and has worked in the communications industry as a radio and print journalist, scientific journal editor and technical writer for advanced robotic systems.

Dr. Weber said about his appointment: “It is a great honor to be serving in this important capacity. A growing body of evidence, much of it originating from members of this organization, indicates that communication is a vital part of the medical experience and a key competency for all healthcare practitioners. Strong communication skills have been linked to better health outcomes through reduced medical errors and lower medical liability, higher patient compliance, and more successful follow up care.”

In his new role, Dr. Weber hopes to first survey the landscape of healthcare communications in Qatar, which is currently unknown, and identify strengths and weaknesses. He also plans to compile a database of researchers, practitioners, and educators working in the field in Qatar, and keep them updated on communications developments via social media interest groups and listservs.

“A regularly meeting interest group, in which participants could network, share best practices and present research, would also be helpful in advancing healthcare communications in Qatar,” Dr. Weber said. “With the recent international recognition of the high quality of Qatar’s health systems, such as Hamad Hospital’s accreditation by the Joint Commission International, Qatar is rapidly becoming a regional leader in medical treatment, and these advances should be all-encompassing, embracing not only diagnosis and therapeutics, but also the people skills that are essential to patient well-being,” he added.

Dr.  Weber will take up his duties officially on September 4, 2018 at the International Conference on Communication in Healthcare meeting in Porto, Portugal where he will also present the first evidence-based narrative medicine research ever conducted in the Gulf region. The research project, entitled “Narrative Medicine Service Learning in the Middle East Context: A Cancer Survivor Booklet Written by Medical Students in Qatar” was carried out by Dr. Weber and Qatari physician Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Abdulmalek, with a student research team comprising medical students Tarek Taha, Hanof Ahmed, Maryam Own, Sara Alhousseiny, Mountasir El-tohami, and Sulaiman Alshakhs.

The team measured learning outcomes of medical students who wrote and compiled a dual language Arabic/English booklet of cancer survivor stories. The booklet is distributed by the Qatar Cancer Society to patient education groups. The results of the study were that students learned more about the emotional and psychological challenges of cancer patients, including family dynamics and social determinants of health, by working closely with the patients over a period of several weeks than they did in their formal curricula, which is often focused on therapeutics without addressing in an in-depth manner the human dimension of disease. All of the student study participants unanimously agreed that both service learning and narrative medicine (the story-based aspects of medical experiences) should become part of the formal, required medical school curricula.