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Medical School, UAE to Collaborate on Center

Training program will aid ailing Dubai medical infrastructure

By Ryan J. Kuo, Crimson Staff Writer

If all goes according to plan, Harvard will be leading a new healthcare initiative in the United Arab Emigrates in six months.

Harvard Medical International (HMI), a not-for-profit corporation created to support the mission of Harvard Medical School overseas, has agreed to a six-month phase of planning with the government of Dubai.

The agreement came to fruition when the Dubai Development and Investment Authority—a division of the regional government—asked Harvard in January to help them establish a healthcare, medical education and biomedical research center.

According to Robert K. Crone, the president and chief executive officer of HMI, the project is focused on developing new programs for education and research in Dubai Healthcare City—an infrastructure that still remains a concept.

In order to make the project a reality, Crone says it must be approved by the HMI board, University President Lawrence H. Summers and the Harvard Corporation.

“The reason Dubai is particularly attractive,” Crone said, “[is that] in a region with considerable need, Dubai is well positioned to become a regional center for both education and healthcare. It in itself has an excellent infrastructure and is an open society with regards to accepting individuals of all race, color and creed.”

Crone said a medical center in Dubai will be able to serve as a hub for a region covering Eastern Europe to Bangladesh and Central Asia to North Africa.

Although the project is only the latest in a series of approximately 25 such collaborations between HMI and other countries undertaken in the past eight years, Crone said Dubai stands out.

“It’s a green field—there’s really nothing there today...Whereas in most of our other programs we’re helping to assist and enhance their programs, this is building from the ground up,” Crone said. “It’s an opportunity to create approaches to programs that haven’t been done before.”

HMI will draw heavily from the experiences of medical school faculty to improve approaches to education and research, Crone said.

Plans are to train graduate students and post-doctorate fellows from Dubai at Harvard, integrating them with laboratories at the University in the process.

When the students return to Dubai, they will retain their connections with the facilities, helping to support fledgling research programs in the region.

Crone said that other institutions, including the Mayo Clinic and possibly several Harvard-affiliated hospitals, will provide hands-on care in addition to HMI’s education and research divisions.

“The Middle East is an important region of the world,” he said. “We believe very strongly that enhancing capacity in education and healthcare are critical to overall economic and social development.”

—Staff writer Ryan J. Kuo can be reached at kuo@fas.harvard.edu.

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