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Raising Awareness About Down Syndrome in Qatar

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What started as a casual observation at a supermarket in Qatar has ended with a top research prize for three young medical students and their Weill Cornell adviser.

WCMC-Q students Sanah Sadiq, Arnab Chowdhury and Abdulhadi Al Saei.

Abdulhadi Al Saei, Sanah Sadiq and Arnab Chowdhury, all second-year students at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, won first prize last month at the Third Undergraduate Research Experience Programme (UREP) competition, held under the Qatar National Research Fund. The students' project — "Down Syndrome in Qatar: A Survey of Public Perception and Educational Resources" — was chosen out of 74 entrants.

The students were guided throughout the study by Dr. Pablo Rodriguez del Pozo, associate professor of public health in the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College–Qatar. Dr. Rodriguez del Pozo's mentorship was also recognized by the Foundation. Both the students and their faculty adviser were presented with a certificate and a monetary prize.

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

For their project, the students interviewed more than 50 families with one member who has Down syndrome and 250 residents throughout Doha to learn more about "society's perception of children with Down syndrome, and the perception of their families regarding social attitudes toward their children and possibilities of social integration."

The findings were first presented in September at the V Summer Course on Bioethics Teaching and Research Methods at the University of Zaragoza in Spain.

Their research 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.

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

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