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Qatari students to experience world-class research after winning WCM-Q essay competition

The students were challenged to write about the role of lifestyle medicine in the national healthcare system.
The students were challenged to write about the role of lifestyle medicine in the national healthcare system.

Four students with their eyes set on a career in medicine will soon be jetting off to the US on a two-week research experience after winning Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar’s (WCM-Q) Healing Hands essay contest.

The annual essay competition challenges local high school students to write the best composition on a given topic. This year, the subject was ‘Lifestyle Medicine Practice in Qatar’, with students asked to write an eight-hundred-word essay with consideration to the health of the community and exploring the challenges and benefits of integrating lifestyle medicine into the Qatari healthcare system.

In all, 37 essays were attempted out of which 21 were successfully submitted by students from 10 different schools across Doha, along with Qatar Foundation’s Academic Bridge Program. Of those students, 14 received certificates of participation and three received honorable mentions but there could be only four winners: Aisha Rashid Al Marri, of Al Eman Independent School for Girls; Dalal Khalid Al-Fadli, from the Academic Bridge Program; Dyana Hamad Alblooshi, of Qatar Academy, Doha; and Haya Khalid Rahimi, who attends Newton International Academy, Barwa City. The four, along with a chaperone each, will now fly off to the US, where they will spend one week gaining work experience at Weill Cornell Medicine’s world-class biomedical research laboratories in New York, as well as attending lectures with faculty and meeting students. They will then move upstate to Cornell University in Ithaca where they will stay at the campus and tour the wide-ranging facilities that the Ivy League university offers.

Haya Khalid Rahimi said her essay discussed consumption in Qatar and the need for balanced diets, sufficient sleep, and a reduction in stress. She also talked about how the Qatari climate, particularly in summer, can demotivate people from exercising.

She added: “I entered the competition because I want to see the Weill Cornell campus in New York and learn how the medical college system works in the US.”

Aisha Rashid Al Marri said her essay examined cardiovascular diseases and how lifestyle medicine – a balanced diet, increased exercise, reduced stress, and smoking cessation – can prevent them.

She said: “It is the most common disease in Arabic society and at the root of preventing it is convincing people to take care of themselves.

“I’m interested in being a doctor in the future. You are able to help many people but it is also your job so you can make a career and a living from it.”

The Healing Hands essay contest is held annually and is designed to encourage high school students to think critically about relevant healthcare and scientific topics and to consider a career in medicine.

Noha Saleh, director of student recruitment and outreach at WCM-Q, said the contest had proved very successful in doing this, and had been a real source of inspiration for the winners but also other entrants.

She said: “The quality of entries for the Healing Hands contest improves every year; this year the judges had a particularly difficult time in selecting the winners, such was the high standard. It was obvious that everyone who submitted an essay had conducted their own research and given a serious amount of thought to the topic, and I hope that the passion and interest they displayed for the subject will continue and that they opt for a career in medicine.

"In doing so, they will increase local capacity in healthcare and help the nation meet the challenges of Qatar National Vision 2030.”

The schools and programs represented by students who entered the competition were: Al Eman Independent School for Girls, Academic Bridge Program, Newton International Academy - Barwa City, Qatar Academy – Doha, Gulf English School, Al Bayan Independent School for Girls, Middle East International School, Amna bint Wahab Independent School for Girls, Rabaa Al Adweya Independent School for Girls, Hayat Universal Bilingual School, and Rawda bint Jassim Independent School for Girls.