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Students take the first step to becoming a doctor

Dr. Javaid Sheikh, dean of WCM-Q, faculty members, and the Class of 2021 with their white coats and stethoscopes.
Dr. Javaid Sheikh, dean of WCM-Q, faculty members, and the Class of 2021 with their white coats and stethoscopes.

Qatar’s future doctors have taken the symbolic first step towards their chosen career by donning the white coat of the physician.

The 49 students of Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar’s Class of 2021 were presented with their new white coats and stethoscopes in front of an audience of family, friends and WCM-Q faculty and staff at the Intercontinental Hotel on Thursday. The presentation is a symbolic turning point, and marks the moment when the students, more than a third of whom are Qatari, begin the four-year medical curriculum at WCM-Q.

Lolwa Al-Theyab was one of the students who participated.

Lolwa, who previously completed two years of pre-medical education at WCM-Q, said: “It’s just an honor and it’s very exciting. We’ve worked so hard for it over the last two years. It’s wonderful to be finally starting the medical curriculum, it’s what we came here for.”

Lolwa said she chose to embark on a career in medicine because it will give her the chance to help others, while also being intellectually stimulating and science-based.

Sara Alyafei with Dr. Javaid Sheikh and Dr. Thurayya Arayssi, senior associate dean for medical education and continuing professional development.

Dr. Javaid Sheikh, dean of WCM-Q, said the White Coat Ceremony was one of the highlights of the college’s academic year and was a time of real optimism and pride.

Dr. Sheikh said: “It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of our new students to WCM-Q. The physician’s white coat and stethoscope are hugely symbolic and are recognized throughout the world and it is my honor to present them to our new students.

“Putting on the white coat for the first time is a defining moment for all doctors. It is the moment when they take their first step into medicine and begin to learn the practical skills that will allow them to heal patients and to make a real difference to their local communities and the wider world.

“These trainee doctors are Qatar’s future healers. They will bring innovation, they will conduct new research, they will share their knowledge with others and, most importantly, they will save lives. They are part of the generation that will deliver a world-leading healthcare system for Qatar and the region.”

The ceremony was addressed by Dr. Abdul Badi Abou-Samra, chairman of medicine and deputy CMO at Hamad Medical Corporation, professor of medicine at WCM-Q, and chairman of Qatar Metabolic Institute, who in his keynote speech told the students that wearing the white coat carried many responsibilities.

Dr. Javaid Sheikh and WCM-Q faculty members with the college’s new pre-medical students.

Dr. Abou-Samra said: “As a concept, many patients, while they are suffering, will not know the difference between a student, a resident, a fellow and faculty. They may not know who is specialized or sub-specialized. They may not know which department or subspecialty they have been admitted to. What matters to them is that they came to a healthcare facility and everybody wearing a white coat is an important healthcare professional from whom they expect care. The boundaries of graded responsibilities, of departments and subspecialties mean nothing to the patient. They expect compassionate care and they should get what they expect. When you walk in a hospital with a clean, shiny white coat bearing the symbol of a prestigious medical college, many patients would see in you a scholar coming to specifically help them.

“Therefore, my advice is to remember this and to imagine that each patient is a family member, such as a sister, a brother, a mother, a father, a grandmother or a grandfather.”

The ceremony also welcomed 43 students - a quarter of whom are Qatari - who are joining WCM-Q’s six-year medical program, which integrates two years of pre-medical training and the four-year medical curriculum. A further 24 students – 19 of whom are Qatari - have joined WCM-Q’s foundation class, a one-year program intended to be a pathway to entry to the pre-medical program. 

Wadha Al-Lakhen is one of those who have joined the pre-medical program.

The 27-year-old said: “I’m probably a little different from the majority of students here as I already have a bachelor’s degree in finance, but I’ve always had an interest in medicine and biology and how the human body works. I think it’s such a rewarding job to be a doctor and to be able to help people and studying medicine offers you so many opportunities further into your career.

“Cornell has one of the best programs in medicine and that’s what attracted me here. Also, being Qatari and having this college in Qatar is very helpful as it means I can stay in my home country with my family and still study.”

The event is one of the highlights of WCM-Q’s academic calendar.

The White Coat Ceremony is the finale of WCM-Q’s Orientation Program, where all of the college’s new students are introduced to the faculty and staff, and learn more about the state-of-the-art facilities that are available to them. They also participate in ‘icebreaker’ sessions, join Q&A panel discussions on career development with qualified physicians, learn more about the curriculum and gain advice about learning strategies, health and safety in the medical environment and legal issues in medicine, among other subjects.

The Class of 2021 will now spend four years training in all aspects of medicine from faculty members based in Qatar and also from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.

They will gain experience working directly with patients at WCM-Q’s clinical affiliate Hamad Medical Corporation, and they will also have the opportunity to work at NewYork Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, one of the world’s foremost university hospitals.

If successful in their training they will then receive a US Cornell medical degree.