October 26, 2001

No Delay in Plans For Qatari College

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As political instability escalates in the Middle East, Cornell forges ahead with its plan to establish the first American medical school in a foreign country, according to President Hunter R. Rawlings III.

“Our plans are moving ahead without delay,” Rawlings said. “It’s a difficult, dangerous time, but we are monitoring the situation very closely.”

The University keeps itself abreast of the latest political news through newspapers and inside contacts with the Qatari government, he added.

Ross Brann, chair of Near Eastern Studies Department, emphasized the risk Cornell was taking by going ahead with the medical satellite.

“I think we should proceed with caution,” Brann said.

While Qatar has had good relations with the United States, the area is rife with political instability, and the long-term security of Saudi Arabia, which borders Qatar, is especially tenuous, he added.

Fifteen of the 19 men who hijacked four airplanes on Sept. 11 were from Saudi Arabia, federal authorities said Wednesday. The identities and nationalities of the hijackers had been uncertain since the planes crashed. But after weeks of investigation in both the United States and Saudi Arabia, federal authorities say they are now sure, The New York Times reported.

With plans to begin his job in Qatar early next year, David Robertshaw, associate dean for premedical education at Weill Medical College in Qatar, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the satellite.

“One has concerns about the world situation over there right now, but I’m still committed. We have no reason to make any changes at this point,” Robertshaw said.

“A lot of my friends are more concerned than I am. From the outside, the situation looks very worrying, but up close you see it’s not so bad,” he added.

Robertshaw will be Cornell’s first representative to move to Qatar. He has a made a five-year commitment to living in the country and overseeing the premedical program’s development.

The design phase of the school is nearly complete, he said, and construction will begin in January 2002 with completion in summer 2003. Temporary quarters equipped with laboratories and classrooms will be renovated for the first-year students of the premedical program, which will begin in fall 2002. Medical school classes will commence two years later.

Tentative plans for the school began almost two years ago when the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community sought Cornell as a partner. The Qatar Foundation will invest $750 million over the next 11 years.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to Weill in Qatar earlier this month by visiting Cornell’s Burn Center in New York City.

Moved by the vast destruction in lower Manhattan, he pledged $1 million to the burn center and another $2 million to New York City for the relief efforts.

“This education [at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar] will be provided in a democratic manner to students who will be chosen on the basis of open competition without any discrimination,” the Emir said, according to a bulletin released by the Medical College.

The Emir continued, “Our cooperation with American universities will not end here, but we are looking forward to, and planning for, obtaining similar assistance from other distinguished American universities for the purpose of creating various institutions in different fields of knowledge.”

Archived article by Jennifer Roberts