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29 November 2019

Opening the eyes of youth to the future of genomics in Qatar

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High school students from across Qatar learn about endless possibilities with genomics

Genomics and precision medicine hold immense promise for developing future treatments for health conditions like cancer, diabetes, obesity, and autism. But people continue to be uninformed and unaware of how the practice works and what it can mean for medicine.

To help remedy this, especially among young people, the Qatar Genome Program (QGP) recently collaborated with Qatar University on the Empower Generations Consortium. The program aims to educate and invest in Qatar’s youth, nurturing their interest in the fields of health and life sciences.

The Empower Generations Consortium is a collaboration between Qatar Genome Programme and Qatar University.

Targeting students in Qatari high schools, the program helps to transform their understanding of health sciences, taking it from being a theoretical subject to a more interactive and engaging experience. Students undergo an internship program with Qatar University’s College of Health Sciences, after which they choose from a number of tracks in the health and life sciences.

One of the choices available to participants is the Genomics and Precision Medicine track (GPM) designed by QGP, a member of Qatar Foundation. Around 40 students expressed an interest in the track this year, and QGP organized interactive workshops for them at Msheireb Museums, explaining the science of genomes and how QGP is working to help develop personalized healthcare for Qatari’s population.

The primary aim behind launching this track was to encourage students to take an interest in the field of genomics and consider pursuing a career in it. It sparked the interest of several students, including Abdul Aziz Abdullah, a high-school student who said, “I chose this internship because I am very interested in genetics. And through this program, I’ve learned a lot, including the various disciplines within the field that I can pursue, which makes me excited for the future.”

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The program aims to encourage students to explore the field of genomics and consider careers within it.

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Genomics and precision medicine education typically starts during university or after. This program is unique in that it instills an awareness of specialized healthcare fields among students at an early age. This way, youth can decide to pursue it much earlier than usual.

Aljazi Rashid, a Grade 11 student, said the program helped clear up a lot of confusion about potential career choices for her. “I wanted to learn something new and modern like genomics, and I think it’s going to be crucial in helping sick people get the right diagnoses and treatments,” she said.

Capacity building in precision medicine, especially locally, is key to the future of healthcare in Qatar.

Dima Darwish

Dima Darwish, Head of Scientific Education at QGP, said “Capacity building in precision medicine, especially locally, is key to the future of healthcare in Qatar.

“Most health disciplines will soon need an ‘omics’ aspect to augment them, which is why we created this track with Qatar University. We guide students and help them see how remarkable a field genomics and precision medicine is. We try to enlighten them and open their minds up to new perspectives and the multitude of career paths they can choose from within the field.”

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