Qatar Foundation Convocation for the Class of 2020, 2021

Doha, Qatar, 27 May 2021


As in previous years, I feel immense pride attending the graduation of a new batch of students from the universities at Education City, and during these exceptional circumstances. I congratulate you all on your success. It is through you that we can sustain the prosperity of the present and strengthen our future.

My sons and daughters…

Every challenge we face teaches us new lessons, and inspires new values that enable us, together, to form new perspectives about the reality of the world as it changes. We have spoken before about the direct and profound impact of both the health and education sectors on all other sectors. Indeed, this pandemic has proven the extent of this impact. As soon as the crisis affected the health sector, it swept through others, and drew attention to the necessity of doubling our emphasis on this sector.

As changes and shifts naturally occur in social trends, recent decades saw an overwhelming trend of people gravitating towards work in the business sector, while at the same time general interest towards work in the health sector decreased, resulting in shortage of healthcare workers, particularly in technical fields. An issue that will require new policies and budgets to improve and sustain the health sector.

I now anticipate a new and significant shift between young people towards the health sector, after the pandemic proved to everyone just how important the medical profession is, and the extent of its impact on all aspects of life. It is an importance that stems from healthcare’s centrality to everything around it.

We have seen how the world was suddenly paralyzed in the face of the pandemic, as the health sector struggled to contain this abrupt predicament. Every country, developed or otherwise, was equally reeling in the face of the pandemic and its repercussions. At that time, new convictions arose, expressing a new awareness, both in an official capacity and among the public, that would restore the status of medicine and its vital role in protecting humanity.

But we cannot thrive, and the world cannot prosper with one specialization without the others, and we cannot build a strong foundation without all your specializations together. While you may notice a focus on medicine, it does not indicate a preference for this field. It simply reflects what the coronavirus pandemic has brought about in terms of great changes in life, business, and health.

And yet, the value of knowledge remains the same, whether in science, literature or art. No one field takes precedence over another in its importance, and the value it brings to our lives.

Returning to the topic that has occupied the world for more than a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of scientific and health achievements, whether in research, medicine or nursing, and has stimulated the research sector to make further innovations and discoveries. As we celebrate your graduation today, it is only appropriate to exemplify the contributions that Qatar Foundation’s universities, researchers, and students have made in fighting the pandemic.

Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar developed in-house, accurate testing for COVID-19, and another sensitive test to detect antibodies through blood and urine sample, in addition to the efforts of its professors and students in studying and examining protective antibodies to be used against the virus.

Moreover, Qatar Foundation researchers and students with molecular biology skills volunteered at Hamad Medical Corporation laboratories to provide technical assistance in analyzing COVID-19 samples.

Qatar Biomedical Research Institute also developed a Serology Kit to detect COVID-19 antibodies in record time.

And at Qatar Computing Research Institute, experts developed a contact tracing technology that tracks people’s movement based on cell phone data, and identifies the location of those who have tested positive for COVID-19, to help limit the spread of the virus in Qatar.

At Sidra Medicine, a new COVID-19 rapid test was developed in 2020, maintaining 98 percent accuracy. This method will reduce the cost of testing by approximately 75 percent.

And, Qatar Genome Program participated in the COVID-19 Host Genetic Initiative, making it the only Arab participant in this global initiative.

But, despite all this rapid scientific progress today, there are still countless human genetic codes that remain a mystery to us, still waiting to be deciphered. I am certain that, among your generation, there will be those who will go on to contribute to deciphering these codes, and to play their part in bringing scientific renaissance to this region. Always remember, crises will ultimately fade away. But, you, with your knowledge and expertise, will forever remain.