Updated at 1:45pm to include additional information from Qatar University.
As Qatar struggles with a shortfall of healthcare professionals, its largest university has announced plans to establish a College of Medicine, with the first batch of students expected to enroll in Fall 2015.
The decision to open Qatar’s first public medical school was made under a directive from the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Qatar University’s (QU) Board of Regents approved the plan during its first meeting of the new academic year, the university said in a statement yesterday.
Graduates from the new college will likely provide a much-needed new batch of locally-trained doctors, as Qatar’s rapidly increasing population has in recent years put its health system under strain.
The new college should also expand options for students in Qatar – especially women – who wish to pursue a career in medicine locally.
Currently, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar is the only university in Qatar offering a degree in medicine. The Qatar Foundation-affiliated university in Education City offers a six-year MD program that includes two years of classroom-based pre-medical training, followed by four years of medical training.
The MD program offered by QU will also take six years for students to complete. The university said its program will be based on international standards, allowing students to pursue post-graduate medical education if they wish.
In a statement about the new college, QU President Prof. Sheikha Abdulla Al Misnad said:
“This national initiative is an extension of QU’s organic integration with society and of its commitment to serving the growing needs of Qatar.
It will remain our focus to offer a high-quality education that employers and patients can trust, and underlines our unwavering commitment to providing a first-class medical education.”
A report published earlier this year by international management consultants McKinsey & Co said that a shortage of healthcare professionals, particularly those from the Gulf, is one of the key challenges facing the country.
Currently, more than two-thirds of doctors working in Qatar are recruited from overseas, and with a 240 percent increase in demand for services predicted by 2025, the report called for new strategies to attract more Qatari and Gulf nationals to study medicine.
QU’s medical school will become the university’s eighth college and the first new one set up there since the College of Pharmacy was established in 2008.
In a statement, the university said the launch was the result of a feasibility study undertaken in partnership with experts at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and Qatar Leadership Center.
Current and former deans of medical colleges at Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, Heidelberg University, American University of Beirut, and University of Sharjah also sat on an international advisory board on the project.
New medical dean
The new college will be located in a new area in the north of the QU campus, close to the new College of Pharmacy building. Together, the university said, the colleges will constitute the core of a new medical and health sciences campus.
QU currently offers a number of healthcare-related programs, including BSc courses in biomedical sciences, human nutrition and public health, as well as an MSc in biomedical sciences.
It also runs a Laboratory Animal Research Center, in which faculty and students conduct biomedical and medical research.
It is not known whether classes would be open to both female and male students.
At the undergraduate level, QU’s campus is segregated by gender, with each providing its own facilities. Some programs are only available to particular genders.
Separately, the university also announced this week that it had appointed a new vice-president for medicine and health. Dr. Egon Toft, who will also hold the title of dean of the college of medicine, joins QU from Aalborg University in Denmark.