September 17, 2002

Classes Begin at C.U. Qatar Medical School

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As students returned to Ithaca for a new semester, a new class of Cornellians thousands of miles away also started classes, at the launching of the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar’s (WCMC-Q) pre-medical program earlier this month. WCMC-Q is the first higher education institution to exist in the small Persian Gulf country.

“We’re very optimistic,” said Antonio Gotto, dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. “This is an excellent group. We are pleased with their credentials and enthusiasm, as well as the acceptance of the program in Qatar.”

WCMC-Q’s 27 international students, all of whom have Middle Eastern heritage, will participate in the two-year pre-medical program before taking the MCAT and applying to the college’s medical program, according to Daniel Alonso, dean of WCMC-Q. The medical program will start in Sept. 2004.

College officials were pleased with the number of applications to the pre-medical program that they received earlier this year, according to Alonso. WCMC-Q received 101 applications, interviewed 55 applicants, accepted 31 and finally enrolled 27 students.

Most of the students — 60 percent — are Qatari citizens, although others hail from countries such as Jordan, Iran, India and the U.S., according to Gotto. In addition, a significant majority — 70 percent — of the college’s students are female. College officials anticipated this would be the case since medicine is considered a very good career for females in Qatar, according to Gotto.

“Our program is co-educational since we have the same principles, policies and standards of Cornell University in New York,” Alonso said. “It is not common in the Gulf region and certainly unusual in Qatar. WCMC-Q is the first higher education, co-educational program in the country. Although the students are going through a period of adaptation it is clear that there are no problems because of it.”

The pre-medical students are taking the same courses as Cornell students in Ithaca who are planning to attend medical school. Their schedule includes biology, general chemistry, calculus and physics, according to Alonso.

“The start of classes with Cornell faculty and Cornell-quality students is a significant milestone,” Alonso said. “I firmly believe that the Cornell culture is being replicated here. Cornell is now here and is raising the standards of education in the region.”

WCMC-Q’s faculty is comprised of seven professors from the University’s Ithaca campus. The college also employs about 40 Qatari and American staff members.

Construction on WCMC-Q’s facilities, which will be called Education City, has not been completed. Students are currently attending classes at the Qatar Academy, a private school funded by the Qatar Foundation, also a major source of funding for WCMC-Q.

“The permanent facility is presently under construction nearby and scheduled for completion in the summer of 2003, just in time to begin the second year of the pre-medical program in the new building,” Alonso said.

At a Sept. 2 ceremony, Sheikha Mouza al-Misnad, chair of the Qatar Foundation and wife of the Emir of Qatar, and David Robertshaw, WCMC-Q’s associate dean for pre-medical education, welcomed the College’s first group of students and their families. The college’s official opening ceremony will take place on Oct. 6.

Archived article by Stephanie Hankin