Notes highlights the higher diploma and degree programmes offered by Dubai Women's College in the fields

Programmes in medical imaging and pharmacy were started at the Dubai Women's College in the mid-1990s. They were the first programmes in the country that helped UAE nationals acquire these employment skills in the health sector.

The programmes began in response to requests from both the Ministry of Health and the Department of Health and Medical Services to equip nationals with the technical and professional skills required by hospitals and clinics.

Initially a higher diploma programme was started in medical imaging technology and pharmacy technology. These have been upgraded to degrees in medical imaging and in pharmacy.

"We cover most of the topics that any international student would cover in radiography," said Alistair Simpson, faculty member for radiography.

"The students get good clinical experience and they are probably exposed to more pathologies than in countries like the US and Europe, because primary health care is not as developed here.

"Working conditions are very similar in Europe and the US, so students gain comparable clinical experience. The higher diploma is probably equivalent to a diploma level in the UK. The programme is benchmarked through Curtin University in Australia."

Dr Stephen Zay, faculty member for pharmacy, believes the field is very complex. "The higher diploma is the equivalent of higher diplomas issued in many other countries," he said.

"Our graduates are well prepared for the job and they are comparable to many practising pharmacists in the UAE.

"The programme is structured according to the best Western standards. Last year both courses were evaluated by Professor David Luscombe from the University of Cardiff. They received excellent ratings as comparable to western universities.

Dr Kay Dahya has been supervisor of health sciences since July 1995. Before this, she was head of health studies at Manukau Institute of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand, where she had gained experience setting up academic programmes and managing them.

Kay has nursing qualifications, and a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science and Education, plus an MBA from Auckland University, and a PhD from the Open University in England.

She spoke to Notes about DWC's medical imaging and pharmacy programmes.

Notes: What do students learn?
Kay Dahya: In medical imaging they learn a variety of investigative techniques in taking images to help the radiographer diagnose medical conditions. A radiologist - who is a qualified doctor - interprets the images. Our graduates take the pictures.

They use MRI, X-Ray, CT scans, fluoroscopy and nuclear medicine. They process images using film and digital systems. They implement radiation protection and follow a safety code of practice.

It is important for them to understand photography and to be skilful in patient management. The students and graduates undertake clinical work at the Ministry and Department of Health and at private hospitals such as the American Hospital or the Dubai Police Clinic.

In pharmacy, the higher diploma students did not qualify as pharmacists; but the four year graduates of the degree programme, begun in 2003, will qualify as pharmacists with a Bachelor's in Pharmacy.

They make up drugs, dispense medicines and are involved in patient management including educating patients on how to take their medications.

During the degree, students learn language skills, numeracy skills. They study human growth and development, first aid, pharmacology, chemistry, microbiology, bio-pharmacy, pharmaceutics and health communication.

Notes: What per cent of graduates of these programmes are employed?
KD: All graduates from the last class of higher diploma students are employed except for one medical imaging and three pharmacy technology graduates. Annual employment rates range from 100 per cent of graduates to 80 per cent.

Looking at the graduates from 1998 to 2004, about a third of them work in the Department of Health, nearly 30 per cent in the Ministry, and about 20 per cent in other government agencies.

Notes: What are the expectations of the employers?
KD: Both programme employers want the graduates to be able to perform basic functions immediately on employment. They need people who are not just technically competent but who can work autonomously as well as work in a group within the health care team.

They want people who can think and problem solve, who can use initiative, who relate well to patients and colleagues, and have the necessary knowledge about what is happening in the industry.

But if we're thinking about the number of UAE nationals employed in these areas, I would guess it's still only about 2-3 per cent.

The writer is head of the career division at Dubai Women's College