October 18, 2002

Qatar Medical College Celebrates Opening

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Qatari royalty and Weill Cornell Medical College administrators welcomed hundreds of others to a celebration of Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar’s (WCMC-Q) opening on Oct. 6 in Doha, Qatar.

WCMC-Q is the first higher education institution in Qatar, a small, wealthy Persian Gulf nation.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikha Mouza al-Misnad, the Emir’s wife, Qatar’s foreign and prime ministers, Sanford I. Weill, chair and CEO of Citigroup, Inc. and Dr. Antonio Gotto, dean of Weill Cornell Medical College were among the event’s prominent participants.

Qatar received much media attention recently after its officials announced that they may allow the U.S. to use a military base there to attack Iraq.

“[A war] might affect the operation of the pre-medical program,” said President Hunter R. Rawlings III. “We always recognized it might happen when we set up the program.”

Although concerned over a possible U.S. war with Iraq, the WCMC-Q community does not expect to experience any threats to its safety, according to Gotto.

“We hope external influences will not interfere with the program, but if they do, we will make adjustments,” Gotto said. “However, if [a situation is] deemed a threat by the staff, the Qatar Foundation and the American Embassy, we could get people out.”

Gotto, however, did not observe tension or anxiety among Qataris over a possible war during his visit for the college’s opening ceremony.

“[The war] was not discussed,” he said. “At the present time, it is safe and calm there. Children continue to play outside.”

During the day’s events, WCMC-Q faculty, students and administrators expressed overwhelming enthusiasm for the college’s two-year pre-medical program, which began in September.

“I found the students to be warm, outgoing, friendly and intelligent,” Gotto said. “The faculty is impressed with the quality of the students as well.”

Three teaching assistants (TAs) from Ithaca, who instruct the students in chemistry, biology and math, also conveyed how impressed they are with the students, according to Gotto.

“The three TAs said the [WCMC-Q] students’ work is indistinguishable from results from students in Ithaca,” he said.

The opening ceremony included several speeches from individuals involved in establishing WCMC-Q.

The sheikha, chair of the Qatar Foundation, expressed gratitude to Cornell and Weill Cornell Medical College for their friendship and partnership, according to Gotto.

The Qatar Foundation will contribute $750 million over 11 years plus an undisclosed amount to WCMC-Q, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Gotto and Weill addressed the audience about Weill Cornell Medical College’s commitment to global health, according to Gotto.

“We hope that the impact of this program will extend beyond medicine,” Gotto said.

Dr. Jordan Cohen, president of the American Association of Medical Colleges was the event’s keynote speaker.

“He spoke about cooperation between education and medicine, and how no other American medical school has done anything close to this,” Gotto said.

Although WCMC-Q has enjoyed early success with its pre-medical program, Weill Cornell Medical College has no plans to establish other colleges elsewhere in the world, according to Gotto.

The college’s medical program will begin in 2004.

Archived article by Stephanie Hankin