Fellows program focuses on Saudi Arabian public health

By Erin Crews | Emory in the World Magazine | May 21, 2012

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Fatima Al-Slail is one of the first six King Abdullah Fellows from Saudi Arabia studying at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health. Photo by Wilford Harewood.

Fatima Al-Slail always dreamed of being a heart surgeon, and grew up to work in the cardiology unit at Saud Al-Babtain Cardiac Center. "But when you actually work with a cardiac patient, you see the other side of the field," Al-Slail says, telling stories of patients refusing to cut sugars or simply opting not to take their hypertension medication. She believes the challenge boils down to a deep need for education.

Enter Scott McNabb, a public health epidemiologist and informatics expert who was working on a project with the military health care system in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia when he retired from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010. Now a visiting professor in the Rollins School of Public Health, McNabb and his team were recruited to expand the school's collaboration with Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health. That led to the launch of the King Abdullah Fellows program, providing scholarships for Saudi students to earn their master's of public health at Emory. Al-Slail is one of the first six King Abdullah Fellows.

"This is a powerful opportunity to build the relationship between our countries," McNabb says. "Emory is providing expertise and supporting the development of best practices in public health on a global scale. That's a part of how we grow through understanding and social justice, and public health is a tool for building relationships and friendships that create true peace."

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