New universities in Dubai encouraging more nationals to study medicine

In a period of expansion for hospitals and clinics in Dubai, recruitment, training and the retention of suitably qualified staff is a key concern for health care administrators. The population of the emirate is expected to grow; and its rulers are keen to see the ratio of medical staff to patients rise to a point where Dubai enjoys the same status as countries in Western Europe. As such, new initiatives are being introduced to enhance the scope of medical training in Dubai.

Homegrown Talent

According to Dubai Health Authority (DHA) data for 2012, the last year figures were published, 744 Emiratis were working as doctors, nurses and pharmacists in Dubai, representing 4.87% of the 15,286 people working in those medical professions. In the DHA itself, 505 physicians were nationals compared to 1033 non-nationals, while the private sector was employing 117 nationals as physicians as compared to 3326 non-nationals. When it came to nursing, non-nationals outnumbered nationals. The DHA itself employed 57 Emirati nurses and 3737 non-nationals, while in the private sector 10 national nurses were employed, compared to 6101 non-nationals.

Although Emirati physicians represented 12.5% of all doctors in Dubai, Emirati nurses accounted for just 0.67% of the total. More nationals are being encouraged to train in the sector. “We need to push Emiratis through at all levels in the DHA, whether clinical or nonclinical, but also in fields such as health finance and insurance,” the DHA’s director of health funding, Dr Haidar Saeed Habib Al Yousuf, said. “There is a lot of work going on across the board in this direction.”

Studying Abroad

Traditionally, students from Dubai wishing to qualify as doctors have looked to universities abroad for at least part of their training, benefitting from generous scholarships granted by the UAE government to its best students. In 2013, 348 UAE students were studying abroad, 249 of them undergraduates, taking degrees in different subjects in Europe and North America. The emirate’s hospitals offer clinical training to medical students who are enrolled on degrees in the UAE. The federal UAE University (UAEU) in Al Ain is home to the College of Medicine and Health Sciences, which offers undergraduate courses in medicine, medical sciences, public health and pharmacy. It offers potential physicians a two-year pre-medical degree followed by a four-year MD course, in addition to running masters programmes in pharmacy, medical sciences and public health. Since 1985, women wishing to train as doctors have also been able to study at Dubai Medical College, a private university. Indeed, the CEO of Rashid Hospital, Dr Alya Al Mazrouei, completed her undergraduate degree there in 2000, prior to continuing her studies in Switzerland.

The CEO of Dubai Hospital, Dr Abdulrahman Mohammad Al Jassmi, explained to OBG how his hospital contributes to medical training in the emirate: “It is a teaching hospital, and we receive undergraduate medical students, who come here for their clinical attachment, and we also arrange their final exams.” The hospital runs undergraduate exams twice a year and also arranges postgraduate clinical exams in medicine and surgery for the UK’s Royal College of Physicians, also twice a year. “Dubai Medical College and also the College of Medicine and Health Sciences at UAEU send their students here,” added Al Jassmi. Young people from Dubai considering a career in medicine can also take degrees at Gulf Medical University in Ajman, which has had university status since 2008; the College of Medicine in Sharjah, which has been running since 2004; and at the RAK Medicine and Health Sciences University ( RAKMHSU). RAKMHSU held its fourth degree ceremony in September 2014, when 171 students received qualifications. Of these, 41 held degrees in medicine, 19 in dentistry, 46 in pharmacy and 65 in nursing.

School Student

Emirati school students wishing to consider a career in medicine typically need to have an average score of 85% in their Year 12 School certificate, or 90% if they are considering a scholarship to study abroad. Figures from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research show that in 2003, 188 men and 504 women applied to study medicine in UAE. A decade later, in 2013, the number of female applicants had remained constant at 504, but the number of male students applying for places on medical courses had fallen to 100. Figures from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority show that in 2013, just 3% of all students studying at either a state or private university in Dubai were on medical or health degrees. The figures showed a total of 1368 people enrolled.

New Universities

A new university, Mohammed bin Rashid University for Medicine and Health Sciences, is expected to open for applications in September 2015 and aims to admit its first cohort of medical students in September 2016. The university is being built at Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), and it will offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses to both citizens and residents. Queen’s University Belfast has signed a strategic partnership agreement with DHCC to help develop the university. The new institution will include the Dubai College of Dental Medicine, which offers six postgraduate dentistry programmes including oral surgery, paediatric dentistry and orthodontics, in partnership with the UK-based Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Courses in nursing and midwifery, public health and pharmacy will be introduced in due course, and there are plans to develop a hospital on the site.

Dubai is not the only emirate to see the potential in new colleges of medicine. For example, in May 2014, Abu Dhabi announced plans for its first medical school as part of expansion plans for Khalifa University. “As the health care facilities and services on offer in the GCC mature, it is important that equipment suppliers not only provide products, but also partner with the public sector as purveyors of education and knowledge,” Michael Karsta, the regional manager of Dräger’s Middle East and Africa division, told OBG.

Health Sciences

Since 2006, female students wishing to train in nursing have been able to study at Fatima College of Health Sciences in Al Ain. Its bachelor of science degree course in nursing is run in collaboration with Griffith College in Australia. The college also offers a bridging course allowing nurses with a diploma to acquire a degree. The college now offers degree courses in physiotherapy, pharmacy, radiography and emergency medicine.

At the postgraduate level, the college offers a postgraduate diploma in diabetes education and clinical care, as well as a masters in renal medicine. Dubai’s two higher colleges of technology (HCTs), Dubai Men’s College and Dubai Women’s College, both run health-related applied science degrees, with the men’s college offering emergency medicine, while women can choose from courses in medical imaging or pharmacy. The two HCTs in Dubai are part of a chain of 17 colleges across the UAE, and students prepared to study in other emirates can also take qualifications in dental hygiene, medical record management, laboratory science, food technology, environmental health and community health. Over 20,000 students were enrolled in HCTs in 2013, with 3.4% of all students, and 5.1% of female students, taking courses in health-related subjects.

Nursing Ambitions

Faced with an ongoing challenge in the hiring and retention of nursing staff, the DHA recently reported it had recruited more than 530 nurses from countries including the Philippines, Jordan and India. Working in Dubai offers these nurses a higher standard of living than in their home countries, but also greater opportunities to learn new skills and acquire new qualifications. Dr Tarek Fathey, hospital director of Mediclinic City Hospital and COO of Mediclinic Middle East, told OBG, “When it comes to staffing, we are not in isolation from the world here in Dubai. There is a huge shortage of nurses and skilled staff globally. Because of our strategic location, we are able to attract nurses from the Far East who are highly motivated and keen to develop their skills even further within a modern and technologically advanced health care system.”

In Dubai’s Knowledge Village, the UK’s University of Bradford, as part of a memorandum of understanding signed with the DHA, is offering one-year top-up honours degrees in international nursing as well as masters courses in International Health Management.

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The Report: Dubai 2015

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