Dr. John A. Rock Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The capital’s first dedicated medical school is set to start classes in August of next year, Khalifa University of Science and Technology announced on Monday during a media round-table discussion, with 50 students to be enrolled once the school opens.

Announced back in July, the College of Medicine and Health Sciences aims to provide a steady stream of home-grown qualified doctors to meet the rising demand of the health care industry. Applications for admission will be opened from January next year.

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Based on the American system, prospective students will be offered a four-year postgraduate programme, which, after completed will see them receiving a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree.

“By establishing its College of Medicine and Health Sciences — the first medical college based in Abu Dhabi — Khalifa University is responding to the challenge of developing world-class health care in Abu Dhabi, the UAE and the region,” said Dr John Rock, the newly appointed dean for the college, who brings with him 35 years worth of experience in the field of academic medicine.

“Our College of Medicine will prepare medical students as highly qualified and well trained students that are culturally sensitive and competent and who we hope will stay right here in Abu Dhabi to care for the population of our emirate,” he added.

“These students will be uniquely trained in having an understanding and appreciation for the social determinants of health in the community — those factors that affect our ability to improve our health and to prevent illness,” he explained, highlighting the benefits of having a locally based medical college that will help students understand the local health needs of the community.

Dr Rock said that students enrolled in the medical school would also be able to pursue a degree in engineering alongside their MD, making the college the first in the region to offer this option.

“There are ways to get joint degrees in the medical school, so you can graduate not only with an MD degree but also a master’s degree in engineering and a variety of different specialities.

“We see a real opportunity to have joint degree development within the medical school to graduate a very special medical student — one who is trained not only in medicine, but also advanced engineering, which will add to the intellectual wealth of our understanding of technology application in the health care arena,” he added.

Dr Rock also commented that the university was in talks with several hospitals and had reached an agreement with Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) that will allow its students to visit its hospitals as part of their studies, giving them valuable hands on training and experience.

“We are talking with SEHA to be involved with their hospitals. There are other hospitals that we will have relationships with throughout Abu Dhabi, those discussions are ongoing.

“We want to be a part of the hospital vision, we want to align our teaching with the strengths of hospitals and we want it to be a partnership,” he added.

With next year’s opening class on course for August, Dr Rock said the medical school would gradually expand its number of students from 50 to 100 in the next four years.