Students of Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) recently launched a project to record a selection of poetry and book readings in five languages for people with visual impairments.

The WCM-Q students recorded readings of poems in Arabic, English, French, Romanian and Urdu at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q), with technical support from Innovations Stations staff of Qatar National Library (QNL). WCM-Q, NU-Q and QNL are all members of Qatar Foundation.

The recordings span a broad range of genres, encompassing classical poems, love poems, poems with a medical theme, and Arabic poetry. It included works by Al-Mutanabbi, widely regarded as the greatest Arabic-language poet of the Islamic Golden Age. All recordings have been contributed to Librivox, a voluntary organisation that produces free-to-access audiobooks for people with visual impairments, and which are available online. To date, the students have recorded and contributed 13 collections of poems and books, and they continue to record and upload more works through the project, which remains ongoing.

Humanitarian initiative

According to medical student Maryam Arabi, the project began as a humanitarian initiative, aimed to provide visually impaired people access to a wide assortment of spoken poetry and books, to give them access to literature as any other member of the community. Maryam is a member of WCM-Q’s Class of 2026 and project manager of the initiative.

She said that literature is a gateway to creativity, learning and self-growth and should therefore be readily available to everyone. As a medical student, she said that medicine and literature are very intertwined, in that both doctors and poets must be able to understand, describe and deal with people’s feelings and suffering.

Being able to work on this initiative with other prestigious institutions in Qatar has been an honour, and we hope to continue expanding this project even further.

The other students who have recorded readings are Amr Ahmed, Nuran Bayraktar, Safaa Elmoh, Sara Mohamed, Aisha Serpedin, Ahamed Lebbe, Bushra Alfakhri, Ahmad Altamimi, Imane Bouhali, Farha Sheikh and Esha Subhash.

WCM-Q Professor of English, Dr Alan Weber, is the developer and project leader of the initiative. He said that the project, which originated in his 2019 course on medical humanities, was designed to teach students professional voice production and public speaking, skills that are critical to their future roles as doctors.

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