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WCMC-Q Student Researchers Impress at Bioethics Conference in Spain

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It was a scene in a supermarket in Doha that could have taken place anywhere. The difference here is that three young medical students decided to investigate what was happening.

WCMC-Q students Sanah Sadiq, Arnab Chowdhury and Abdulhadi Al Saei in Spain for the 2010 Bioethics Teaching and Research Methods at the University of Zargoza.

"The students saw that people were staring at a child with Down syndrome and that people were avoiding the child in shopping checkout lines," said Dr. Pablo Rodriguez del Pozo, associate professor of public health at Weill Cornell Medical College–Qatar. "And the students said, 'Wow, what is this?' and realized they rarely saw children with Down syndrome in public in Qatar."

Backed by funding from the Qatar National Research Fund's Undergraduate Research Experience Program (UREP), WCMC-Q second-year students Sanah Sadiq and Arnab Chowdhury and first-year student Abdulhadi Al Saei interviewed more than 50 families containing one member with Down syndrome and 250 residents throughout Doha.

"Dr. Rodriguez del Pozo has done a tremendous job inspiring our young medical students to pursue research drawn from the experiences of everyday life and focused on ways of improving the ethical and social demensions of medicine," says Dr. Alvin I. Mushlin, chairman of the Department of Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College and public health physician-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell.

The students' findings, which were presented in September at the V Summer Course on Bioethics Teaching and Research Methods at the University of Zaragoza in Spain, suggested that while people in Qatar are generally aware of the cause of Down syndrome, many believe those with the condition will misbehave and are unfit to lead independent lives.

Conference director Dr. Rogelio Altisent, University of Zaragoza professor of bioethics; Sanah Sadiq; Arnab Chowdhury; Dr. Javier Castillo Garcia, dean of the University of Zaragoza Medical College; Dr. Pablo Rodriguez del Pozo, WCMC-Q associate professor of public health; and Abdulhadi Al Saei at the conference.

"Awareness of different social factors related to Down syndrome is much lower than we expected," says Al Saei, "Schools teach about this, but not enough."

Dr. Rodriguez del Pozo says that the study's findings illuminate ways that more education on Down syndrome in Qatar could help integrate people with the condition into public life.

"Sometimes people disregard social studies thinking they are not medical studies," he said. "It's important for faculty and students to remember that medicine is not only about molecules and the cells but is also about society and what is going on 'out there.'"

The student researchers all said they are inspired by their experience with social research and would like to participate in more such studies in the future.

"I got involved with people and worked with scientific data. I feel like I've done something good," Sadiq said.

In the end, Dr. del Pozo says, research is about disseminating the results, and in that respect, the WCMC-Q student researchers made a strong and positive impression, internationally.

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