In medicine, sharing is caring

Stephen Durham
Stephen Durham

Established medical schools are offering their expertise up to nascent academies with the aim of establishing a common scientific knowledge 

As the business world becomes increasingly globalised, it is unsurprising that geographical borders are now becoming blurred in the world of medicine as well. Recent years have seen a healthcare revolution in the US, surges in ‘medical tourism’, and even instances of established medical schools sharing their knowledge and expertise internationally.

In January of this year, a partnership began between Harvard Medical School and the Dubai Healthcare City Authority (DHCC), formed in order to establish a centre for training and research on health care in the UAE. According to Harvard Medical School, the centre’s mission is to increase local and regional health delivery research capacity in the UAE, address its most pressing health challenges, and expand Dubai’s role as a “global hub for scientific and policy discussions related to healthcare delivery”.

Using innovative and multidisciplinary approaches, the centre will study ways to improve outcomes for patients undergoing surgery and for patients receiving care for diabetes and obesity, infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis C, and mental health disorders.

Funding for the centre will be provided by a four-year grant from the Dubai Harvard Foundation for Medical Research, while the work will be further supported by faculty, fellows, researchers and students from Harvard Medical School and from Dubai and the UAE.

Mohammed Bin Rashid Academic Medical Centre
Mohammed Bin Rashid Academic Medical Centre is one of the facilities at Dubai Healthcare City

“The scope of this project is broad, and its impact promises to be great. It will provide rigorous training for tomorrow’s scholars and practitioners. It will also conduct health delivery research, whose findings will influence global health practice as well as policy,” said Alan Garber, provost of Harvard University and the Mallinckrodt professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School.

While this is not the first such partnership Harvard has entered into, it certainly looks as if it could become one of the most lucrative. Despite the obvious prestige carried by the UAE at present, its potential for medical tourism is also very appealing to established institutions such as Harvard.

In 2014 alone, visits to DHCC were up 20 percent to 1.2 million from 1 million in 2013, of which 15 percent were medical tourists. According to DHCC, the most popular procedures sought by medical tourists to DHCC include infertility, cosmetic and dental treatments. Most medical tourists came to the DHCC from the Gulf Cooperation Council area (37 percent) and wider Arab world (25 percent), though 20 percent came from Europe and 18 from Asia.

With these statistics in mind, it is clear why the DHCC was keen to make use of the resources offered by one of the best medical schools in the world, and why Harvard was just as enthusiastic to capitalise on the boom in medical tourism. Moreover, as with any such partnership, the most valuable rewards will be reaped by the people of the UAE, and all those who seek it out for the highest standards in medical care.