Doha – September 25, 2022: More than 500 WCM-Q educated graduates are currently serving careers as physicians, scientists, and academics at leading institutions in Qatar and internationally. One such scholar is Dr. Heba Altarawneh, a postdoctoral research fellow at WCM-Q’s Infectious Disease and Epidemiology Group (IDEG), who recently published her research in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
As part of an IDEG team, Dr. Altarawneh conducts studies that aim to increase our understanding of the epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 infection by investigating the protection of natural immunity, protection of vaccine immunity, and COVID-19 severity. During the peak of the Omicron wave in early 2022, the team published the first-ever global study to estimate the effectiveness of prior infection against reinfection with the Omicron variant in the prestigious NEJM.
NEJM is considered one of the most widely read, cited, and influential general medical periodicals in the world. Each year, NEJM receives more than 16,000 submissions but only 5% of these are deemed worthy of publication. The team’s research was highlighted as the most viewed article on the NEJM website for several weeks.
Commenting on the achievement, Dr. Altarawneh said: “I am very grateful for the mentorship I received from Dr. Laith Abu-Raddad, Dr. Hiam Chemaitelly, and Dr. Suelen Qassim during my postdoctoral research fellowship. The research experience and training I received at WCM-Q gave me the opportunity to further develop the skills necessary for my future career as a physician-scientist.”
Findings from the research have been key to informing health policy on a national and international level, with entities such as the World Health Organization (WHO), and have also been covered extensively in international media such as the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Nature, and the Guardian.
“During my research fellowship at IDEG, I was accepted on a scholarship into Harvard’s Global Clinical Scholars Research Training Program. This will allow me to complete one year of advanced training in research methodology, statistical analyses, and research ethics before starting my clinical medical residency in internal medicine,” she added.
IDEG has been designated as a WHO Collaborating Center for Disease Epidemiology Analytics and is a member of the National Study Group for COVID-19 Epidemiology in Qatar. Research is conducted through a national collaboration of several institutions, such as Hamad Medical Corporation, the Ministry of Public Health, the Primary Health Care Corporation, Qatar Biobank, Sidra Medicine, and Qatar University.
WCM-Q’s Six-Year Medical Program integrates humanities with the basic and clinical sciences, offering early exposure to patient experiences and research. As part of the research component of the program, students are introduced to the principles of research and the opportunity to conduct, present, and publish their scholarly work as part of their training, under the supervision of an experienced faculty member.