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In era of COVID-19, WCM-Q graduates 41 new doctors

Dr. Javaid Sheikh, Dean of WCM-Q, leads the recitation of the Hippocratic Oath with the 41 newly graduated doctors of WCM-Q's Class of 2021.
Dr. Javaid Sheikh, Dean of WCM-Q, leads the recitation of the Hippocratic Oath with the 41 newly graduated doctors of WCM-Q's Class of 2021.

Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) has graduated 41 new doctors, bringing the total number of physicians produced by the college since it was established in 2001 to 463.

This year’s cohort received their MD degrees in a virtual graduation ceremony held online in accordance with physical distancing protocols in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Watched by family and friends logging in from all over the world, the students of the Class of 2021 recited the Hippocratic Oath and were presented with their degrees by Dr. Javaid Sheikh, Dean of WCM-Q.

Dr. Sheikh used his speech to pay tribute to the perseverance of the graduates, who had to complete the final year of the challenging medical program under lockdown conditions. He told the graduates: “Your dedication to your studies and your commitment to the measures put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus has been a source of inspiration to all of us at WCM-Q. I am grateful to each and every one of you for stepping up to this challenge, to my colleagues in the faculty and on the staff at WCM-Q, and to the wider Education City community, for providing essential support in very trying conditions.”

He added: “Many of you will be called upon to help those afflicted by COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, to deal with as yet unforeseen healthcare emergencies, and to find new reserves of strength to meet the challenges you will encounter. I think I speak for everyone here when I wish you all the very best as you go forwards from here to embrace these challenges.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor for COVID-19 to President Joe Biden, address the WCM-Q graduation ceremony.

Dr. Sheikh then gave thanks to His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, and Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, for their ambition, vision and leadership, which had enabled the graduates to unlock their human potential and qualify as doctors. Dr. Sheikh also thanked Her Excellency Dr. Hanan Al Kuwari, Minister of Public Health, for her very effective support of WCM-Q over many years.

The graduation ceremony was honored to have as its keynote speaker Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States, and Chief Medical Advisor for COVID-19 to President Joe Biden.

Dr. Fauci said: “I am delighted to have this opportunity to congratulate the outstanding graduates in the 2021 Class of Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar. As we navigate year two of the global pandemic of COVID-19, I am keenly aware that celebrating this important milestone of your lives under the constraints of this pandemic is, at best, disappointing. However, we all must adapt to this extraordinary situation and unite to meet its challenges. When this pandemic began its sweep around the globe more than a year ago it quickly hobbled hospitals and imposed crushing levels of stress and strain on their medical staffs. You are among those who faced this situation with courage, resiliency and adaptability. Thank you for your extraordinary dedication.

“I had the great fortune to receive my medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in 1966. Although I did not fully appreciate it at the time, the path I took subsequently, including my internship, residency and chief residency in internal medicine at the New York Hospital Cornell Medical Center, and my infectious disease training at NIH, prepared me well to fight the emergent viruses that have shaped my career. For example: HIV, 2009 influenza, SARS-CoV-1, Ebola, Zika, and now SARS-CoV-2. In this regard, I often advise students to embrace unexpected opportunities that present themselves. In the 1980s, I remember clearly when the recognition of a new virus later named HIV caused me to make an abrupt turn in my own NIH career. Only decades later could I adequately reflect on how enormous an impact that virus has had on the global community.

“Currently, we are at a critical juncture in the COVID-19 pandemic. Our pathway to ending the pandemic has been lit by the stunningly rapid development of highly effective COVID-19 vaccines now authorized for use. However, the global community is in a race to access and deploy these vaccines faster than SARS-CoV-2 can mutate into the variants that are more transmissible and more deadly. As you move into the next stage of your medical careers, regardless of your medical specialty, now more than ever we will need your talent, your energy, your resolve, and your character to restore and preserve the health of our world. And so, thank you for your courage and perseverance, congratulations, and please keep well – I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.”

The WCM-Q Class of 2021 comprises 30 young women and 11 young men, hailing from 13 countries around the world: Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Egypt, Singapore, Canada and the USA. The Class of 2021 is the 14th graduating class in WCM-Q’s history and the second to have completed the college’s innovative six-year medical program, which comprises both pre-medical and medical curriculums. This year, the Quran recitation was given by Class of 2021 graduate Abdulaziz Nasser Al-Abdulghani, while the role of university marshal was performed by Dr. James Roach, Associate Dean for Pre-medical Education and Professor of Chemistry.

Congratulations to the Class of 2021!

Student speaker and Class of 2021 graduate Raihan El-Naas said that the dream of becoming a doctor had sustained the students during the lockdown. She said: “Each of us has a dream, and our ultimate dream is to become experienced doctors, doctors of great knowledge who treat their patients with kindness and mercy. I hope with all my heart that our dreams come true, that we treat our patients by day and by night, and that we become a source of consolation in their grief, strength in their weakness, and hope in their despair. From the bottom of my heart, I hope that each of us will become a source of pride for the medical profession. We felt the bitterness of waiting and walked the path longing for a better tomorrow, and now we deserve for our dreams to come true, so that our efforts do not go to waste and that we see the fruit of our patient labors.”

Student speaker Raihan El-Naas addresses the WCM-Q 2021 graduation ceremony.

Her fellow Class of 2021 graduate and student speaker Lolwa Al-Theyab spoke of the moral obligation of physicians to always maintain empathy with patients. She said: “We spent our early twenties navigating our emotional growth in an environment that can be incredibly stressful. An environment that involved seeing real people suffering with disease, and sometimes it was really hard. And yet we managed to soldier on, despite these sobering moments. We managed to lift our patients up because we brought light to the darkest of situations. We laughed with patients, were sometimes sad with patients, we held their hands and became their advocates. I pray we never lose that. If there’s one piece of advice I can give our future selves, it’s to keep holding our patients’ hands, to keep listening to their stories – to maintain that empathy.”

Student speaker Lolwa Al-Theyab spoke of the moral obligation of physicians to always maintain empathy with patients.

Alongside Dean Sheikh for the presentation of candidates and conferment of the MD degree was Dr. Thurayya Arayssi, Professor of Clinical Medicine and Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education and Continuing Professional Development. She said: “I offer my warmest congratulations to these remarkable young men and women, who are driven by a passion for learning, intellectual curiosity and, above all, a desire to heal and comfort those in need. At a time when doctors are needed more than ever, we are truly grateful that they have chosen to dedicate their wonderful talents to medicine.”

Dr. Javaid Sheikh, Dean of WCM-Q, paid tribute to the Class of 2021 for completing the final year of the challenging medical program under unprecedented lockdown conditions.

The new doctors will now continue their medical training by joining residency programs at leading healthcare institutions in Qatar and the United States, including Hamad Medical Corporation, NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, Duke University Medical Center, Cleveland Clinic, and Harvard Spaulding, among many others.

The graduation ceremony also heard from Dr. Augustine Choi, Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. Dr. Choi said: “Being a doctor carries enormous responsibilities. To be the best doctor you can be you need to keep learning and developing new skills throughout your career so that you can offer your patients the very highest quality of care possible. Finding compassion and ways to truly care for your patients is a lifelong process. It takes discipline and perseverance every single day.

“There are so many opportunities for you to make an impact – in Qatar, in your countries of origin, and around the world. This past year has shown us that health is precious. As graduates of Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar, you have the tools to make a difference wherever you choose to focus your energies. I wish you all the best on the journey ahead and look forward to hearing about all that you will achieve as Weill Cornell alumni.”  

Dr. Augustine Choi, Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, told the Class of 2021 that medicine demands compassion and a lifelong commitment to excellence in patient care.

This year, the Quran recitation was given by Class of 2021 graduate Abdulaziz Nasser Al-Abdulghani.

The newly qualified doctors of the Class of 2021 will now join residency programs at elite medical institutions in Qatar and the US to continue their training.