In Era of COVID-19, WCM-Q Graduates 41 New Doctors

Dean Sheikh speaking during WCM-Q Commencement

Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar welcomed 41 new doctors into the medical profession during commencement on May 5, bringing the total number of physicians educated by the institution to 463 since its inception in 2001.

The Class of 2021 received their Cornell University medical degrees in a virtual graduation ceremony held online in accordance with physical distancing protocols in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Watched by family and friends logging in from all over the world, the graduating students recited the Hippocratic Oath and were presented with their degrees by Dr. Javaid Sheikh, dean of WCM-Q.

During the ceremony, Dr. Sheikh paid tribute to the perseverance of the graduates, who had to complete the final year of their education under lockdown conditions. “Your dedication to your studies and your commitment to the measures put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus has been a source of inspiration to all of us at WCM-Q,” he said. “I am grateful to each and every one of you for stepping up to this challenge, to my colleagues in the faculty and on the staff at WCM-Q, and to the wider Education City community, for providing essential support in very trying conditions.”

students smiling and waving during commencement

Students smiling and waving during WCM-Q commencement on May 5.

“Many of you will be called upon to help those afflicted by COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, to deal with as yet unforeseen healthcare emergencies, and to find new reserves of strength to meet the challenges you will encounter,” he added. “I think I speak for everyone here when I wish you all the very best as you go forward from here to embrace these challenges.”

Dr. Sheikh thanked His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chairperson of Qatar Foundation, and Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, vice chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, for their ambition, vision and leadership, which enabled the graduates to unlock their human potential and qualify as doctors. Dr. Sheikh also thanked Her Excellency Dr. Hanan Al Kuwari, minister of public health, for her very effective support of WCM-Q over many years.

The WCM-Q Class of 2021 comprised 30 women and 11 men, hailing from 13 countries around the world: Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Iraq, Canada and the United States. It is the 14th WCM-Q graduating class and the second to have completed the college’s innovative six-year medical program, which comprises both pre-medical and medical curriculums. Graduate Dr. Abdulaziz Nasser Al-Abdulghani recited from the Quran, while Dr. James Roach, associate dean for pre-medical education and professor of chemistry served as university marshal.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health and chief medical advisor for COVID-19 to President Joe Biden, served as the commencement keynote speaker. During his address, Dr. Fauci reflected on the COVID-19 pandemic and important role the graduates will play to ensure the health of society.

dr. fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaking during the ceremony

“As we navigate year two of the global pandemic of COVID-19, I am keenly aware that celebrating this important milestone of your lives under the constraints of this pandemic is, at best, disappointing,” he said. “However, we all must adapt to this extraordinary situation and unite to meet its challenges. When this pandemic began its sweep around the globe more than a year ago it quickly hobbled hospitals and imposed crushing levels of stress and strain on their medical staffs. You are among those who faced this situation with courage, resiliency and adaptability. Thank you for your extraordinary dedication.

“Currently, we are at a critical juncture in the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added. “Our pathway to ending the pandemic has been lit by the stunningly rapid development of highly effective COVID-19 vaccines now authorized for use. However, the global community is in a race to access and deploy these vaccines faster than SARS-CoV-2 can mutate into the variants that are more transmissible and more deadly. As you move into the next stage of your medical careers, regardless of your medical specialty, now more than ever we will need your talent, your energy, your resolve, and your character to restore and preserve the health of our world.”

Student speaker and Class of 2021 graduate Dr. Raihan El-Naas said that the dream of becoming a doctor had sustained the students during the lockdown. “Each of us has a dream, and our ultimate dream is to become experienced doctors, doctors of great knowledge who treat their patients with kindness and mercy,” she said. “I hope with all my heart that our dreams come true, that we treat our patients by day and by night, and that we become a source of consolation in their grief, strength in their weakness, and hope in their despair. From the bottom of my heart, I hope that each of us will become a source of pride for the medical profession. We felt the bitterness of waiting and walked the path longing for a better tomorrow, and now we deserve for our dreams to come true, so that our efforts do not go to waste and that we see the fruit of our patient labors.”

Her fellow Class of 2021 graduate and student speaker Dr. Lolwa Al-Theyab spoke of the moral obligation of physicians to always maintain empathy with patients. “We spent our early 20s navigating our emotional growth in an environment that can be incredibly stressful. An environment that involved seeing real people suffering with disease, and sometimes it was really hard,” she said. “And yet we managed to soldier on, despite these sobering moments. We managed to lift our patients up because we brought light to the darkest of situations. We laughed with patients, were sometimes sad with patients, we held their hands and became their advocates. I pray we never lose that. If there’s one piece of advice I can give our future selves, it’s to keep holding our patients’ hands, to keep listening to their stories – to maintain that empathy.”

Joining Dean Sheikh for the presentation of candidates and conferment of the medical degree was Dr. Thurayya Arayssi, professor of clinical medicine and senior associate dean for medical education and continuing professional development. “I offer my warmest congratulations to these remarkable young men and women, who are driven by a passion for learning, intellectual curiosity and, above all, a desire to heal and comfort those in need,” she said. “At a time when doctors are needed more than ever, we are truly grateful that they have chosen to dedicate their wonderful talents to medicine.”

The new doctors will now continue their medical training by joining residency programs at leading healthcare institutions in Qatar and the United States, including Hamad Medical Corporation, NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, Duke University Medical Center, Cleveland Clinic and Harvard Spaulding, among many others.

“Being a doctor carries enormous responsibilities,” said Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. “To be the best doctor you can be you need to keep learning and developing new skills throughout your career so that you can offer your patients the very highest quality of care possible. Finding compassion and ways to truly care for your patients is a lifelong process. It takes discipline and perseverance every single day.

“There are so many opportunities for you to make an impact – in Qatar, in your countries of origin and around the world,” he added. “This past year has shown us that health is precious. As graduates of Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar, you have the tools to make a difference wherever you choose to focus your energies. I wish you all the best on the journey ahead and look forward to hearing about all that you will achieve as Weill Cornell alumni.”  

View the full WCM-Q Commencement Flikr gallery here

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