Student Highlight – Dr. Saad Alshahrani graduated from King Faisal University Medical School in Saudi Arabia in 2004. As a new graduate, Dr. Alshahrani was full of enthusiasm to practice medicine. He worked as a general practitioner in King Abdulaziz Hospital in Dhahran City, working closely with the management in the area of health and fitness. From that time, he began to think deeply about the health status of his community. He found that although Saudi Arabia had many modern hospitals with advanced technology, common health problems were still having a major impact on the country’s health system.
It was at that time that Dr. Alshahrani started to believe that he wanted to participate in building a stronger public health system in Saudi Arabia. He believes that such a system will improve planning for health services based on public health needs and on the most common diseases that need to be addressed. Consequently, Dr. Alshahrani decided to pursue training in public health by securing a master’s degree in health management planning and policy from Nuffield Institute at Leeds University, UK. After completing his MA degree, Dr. Alshahrani took a position in the 400-bed King Fahad Specialist Hospital in Dammam (KFSHD), working in the Corporate Strategic Planning Department, where he supported hospital management to develop the hospital’s strategic plan. By providing data on disease prevalence and referrals outside the region, Dr. Alshahrani helped identify the diseases that had the greatest impact on the health of residents in the eastern province in Saudi Arabia.
Realizing the need to further investigate the causes of the many diseases that impact the health system of Saudi Arabia, Dr. Alshahrani transferred to the epidemiology unit at the newly established research center at KFSHD. The research center plans to expand the services in all core areas of KFSHD, particularly oncology and neuroscience. This expansion of services will require more qualified and skilled personnel. To help meet that need, Dr. Alshahrani decided to enroll in the UNMC College of Public Health (COPH) epidemiology PhD program. When he returns to the Saudi Arabia, he expects to play an important role in developing a cancer registry and promoting more local epidemiologic cancer studies, in addition to supervising students in cancer research studies.
Dr. Alshahrani is excited about the learning environment at the COPH, and said that the “kindness and compassion of our college’s staff and faculty help me to feel that I am indeed a part of the college.” He feels that his educational and social experience at the COPH will “leave indelible memories” and will prepare him for a successful career.