Students from high schools across Qatar met at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) to compete in a research poster contest aimed at inspiring talented young people to pursue careers in medicine.

Twenty-three student teams from 14 schools presented posters at the High School Research Competition event, with topics ranging from the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Qatar, to the impact of type-2 diabetes, to public attitudes towards mass transport systems in Qatar, among others.

Earlier this year, the Office of Student Recruitment and Outreach announced its first High School Medical Conference for local and international schools in Qatar, as a pilot initiative. The main aim of the conference is not only to raise awareness about the excellent careers that medicine has to offer but also foster a palpable interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) tracks.

The High School Research Competition is one element of WCM-Q’s new High School Medical Conference, a three-part outreach initiative that also comprises a series of  professional development workshops designed for teachers and counselors who advise students interested in  careers in medicine.

The third element is an exhibition at WCM-Q on 11 November. Top teams will be offered the opportunity to present at the High School Medical Conference on 10-11 November where three finalist teams will compete to win valuable prizes. Top prize is an educational trip to Weill Cornell Medicine in New York for the winning team and their school supervisor.

Dr Rachid Bendriss, Assistant Dean for Student Recruitment, Outreach and Foundation Programs congratulated all the teams and all students who joined the research competition because the standard was exceptionally high.

We are extremely impressed by the quality of the research, the very high level of presentation and the deep understanding each student demonstrated about his or her subject area. The judges are going to have a hard time choosing the winners, but by researching difficult subject matter and presenting it with confidence and assuredness, you are in fact all winners.’

In addition to presenting their research in poster form, the students also had to explain their findings to the panel of judges comprising of WCM-Q faculty: Dr Bendriss, Dr Dietrich Büsselberg, Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, Dr Raphael Courjaret, Research Associate in Physiology and Biophysics, Dr Sohaila Cheema, Director of the Institute for Population Health, and Dr Yasser Majeed, Postdoctoral Associate in Microbiology and Immunology.

It proved to be a nerve-racking but exciting experience for 16-year-old Noura Rakab and Yasmin Zamel, students from the American School of Doha who presented a poster about the implications for public policy of vitamin D deficiency in Qatar, which they worked with Aya Al Thani and Maryam Hussain under the supervision of their teacher, Pamela Keigley.

Noura said they really enjoyed the research and the event because it was a challenge that took them out of their comfort zone and push them further than we thought was possible. Yasmin meanwhile, said that both of them are really interested in careers in medicine and that they are looking forward to applying to medical school next year.

Each team was paired with a WCM-Q teaching specialist or faculty member who provided useful guidance on how to refine research questions, conduct research and interpret data. The teaching specialists who actively engaged with the students include Dr Ali Chaari, Dr Majda Sebah, Dr Nandeo Choony, Dr Branislav Aleksic, Melanie Fernandes, Robin Theron, Anthony Overy and Dr Ghizlane Bendriss.

Noha Saleh, Director of Student Recruitment and Outreach, said that this was the first event of the new High School Medical Conference initiative, which was designed to reach out to highly motivated and talented high school students, and help them realise their ambitions of becoming Qatar’s next generation of medical leaders.

We are delighted with the enthusiastic response we received from both the students and teachers, and we look forward to welcoming them back to WCM-Q for the culmination of the High School Medical Conference on 10-11 November.’

More information on the High School Medical Conference available through this link.