AL GHARBIA // Science students in Al Gharbia will have more chances to put their skills into practice, under a new deal between a federal university and medical authorities.
The Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), the Western Medical Region and the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) will soon sign an agreement to give students of medical lab technology in-hospital training and lectures by practising experts.
The link-up is part of an effort to address the remote region's lack of Emirati medical professionals.
"The students will be able to go up and do classes in the medical lab facilities in Madinat Zayed Hospital," said Phil Quirke, the director of Al Gharbia HCT.
"Work placements can be set up throughout the Western Region, which has been a struggle."
The colleges are working with the Tawteen Council, the government body that seeks employment for Emiratis, to ensure there will be jobs available when the first cohort graduates in two years.
"Those jobs can't just be created if there aren't the finances there," Mr Quirke said. "Most of these jobs require five years of experience … but a Tawteen job vacancy allows on-the-job training at the correct level."
The agreement will allow HCT to offer a broader curriculum, which it could not otherwise afford.
"We couldn't justify three hours a week of cellular pathology for one teacher," said Mr Quirke. "To get that kind of course, I'd have to usually find some sort of multi-specialist. This way we can pay the doctor by the hour." Without the agreement, he said, the doctor could not be released to teach.
Medical lab technology is the only health subject offered by HCT in Al Gharbia, but Mr Quirke hopes others will follow.
"They need doctors and nurses but we won't get the local demand," he added. "Fatima College of Health Sciences is coming down [from Abu Dhabi] to do this and it's going to be Arabic-based, which is fine."
While institutions such as Abu Dhabi University are planning to expand to the region, for now HCT is its sole university.
"There were very few science options available and I don't like business or IT," said Ayesha Al Qubaisi, 21, a second-year student on the course. "I've liked science since high school."
Ubah Mohamud teaches the course and believes it is vital for the health sector.
"Diagnostics is one of the most important tools in medicine," Ms Mohamud said. "If the patient gets the right diagnosis, he can get the right treatment."
The agreement also allows access to regular blood samples and Seha's expertise.
"Whatever help we need will be much easier to get now," Ms Mohamud. "The students can go there and get better training and clinical placements, which is the most important part of this course.
"They have to get exposure to labs in their third and fourth years."
The women on the course, 10 in their second year and seven in their first, mainly say they do it to assist family and community.
"You can see it's their dream to do more than just leave here with a degree," Ms Mohamud said. "Their families suffer with conditions such as diabetes and they want to do their part to get better health and a better society."
Wadad Al Hammadi, 20, from Mirfa, is one such student. Her grandmother is diabetic.
"I know a lot about that now so I can pass this on and help her," Ms Al Hammadi said.
"When my sister recently had a blood test she brought me the results. I told the teacher my diagnosis and I got it right. I felt really proud."
She feels such work is her duty as an Emirati.
"There are no Emiratis in the hospital labs," Ms Al Hammadi said. "This is our country and we should be working to develop it."