From left: Dr Habiba Al Safar, director of Khalifa University Centre of Excellence for Biotechnology; Dr Tod Laursen, Dr Arif Sultan Al Hammadi and Dr Guan Tay during a press conference held to announce the launch of the College of Medicine and Health Sciences. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The Khalifa University of Science and Technology on Wednesday announced the launch of its College of Medicine and Health Sciences — Abu Dhabi’s first dedicated medical school — which is expected to start courses next year on its main campus.

Based on the American model, the college will provide students with a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree after graduation with applications open for both local and expatriate graduates.

“For Khalifa University, the College of Medicine and Health Sciences will be a worthwhile addition to the existing College of Arts and Sciences, and the College of Engineering, thus providing students with a whole range of options for academic programmes,” said Dr Tod Laursen, president of Khalifa University.

“The medical programme will be closely styled along the lines of similar programmes in the US. Unlike medical programmes such as the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), which is an undergraduate programme, the one offered by Khalifa University will be a four-year postgraduate programme — Doctor of Medicine,” he added.

As part of their studies, Dr Laursen said that students would spend their time on the university’s campus as well as at hospitals.

“Students will be going to the hospitals, they’re going to see the patients, trail the doctors, and also participate in the preliminary diagnosis at a very early stage of their studies,” he added.

“Our anticipation is that students will spend a lot of time in the hospitals along with doing their research and other studies on the main campus. The goal is to give the students as much real experience they can get,” Laursen said.

Commenting on when the medical school is expected to open, Laursen said the university was looking at the fall of 2019.

“The goal is to get the course started in just over a year’s time. A few things need to happen before then — we need to finalise our partnership with a US medical institution, we’re talking with a number of potential partners and we need to finish that discussion.

“There is also the accreditation process that we have to go through with the ministry, but our plan is that students will be ready to start in the fall of 2019,” he added.

Dr Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, executive vice-president of Khalifa University, said the institute would work with its American partner in devising the specific aspects of the courses that will be taught.

“Negotiations are currently ongoing to select the right collaborating partner in the US. The partner medical institution will work with Khalifa University in designing and implementing the academic programme, in addition to assisting with recruiting and training the academic staff.”

Dr Al Hammadi also spoke on the benefits of opening Abu Dhabi’s first medical school, which he said would help strengthen the country’s health care sector.

Pre-medicine bridge course

Officials also explained that graduate students without a formal background degree in medicine can apply for the medical school through its pre-medicine bridging programme which starts this September. Students who successfully complete this programme will then also be eligible to apply for the college.

“This programme is for students who don’t already have a degree in a field that is related to medicine, for example, if they majored in electrical engineering, they can apply for our pre-medicine bridging programme as a way to join the medical college,” said associate professor Dr Guan Tay, who is overseeing the process.

“The most important part of this programme is the medical college admission test (MCAT) the students will have to take. This is a seven-hour-long exam with over 200 multiple-choice questions they have to answer. The questions are all related to the biological system,” he added.

Dr Tay said the deadline for graduates to apply for the pre-medicine bridging programme is on July 31, and that students can apply online through the university’s website.

“The application will have to provide us with their GPA score, reference letters, and also why they want to become a doctor,” he explained.