HBKU Alumni Stories: Dr. Sara Al-Khawaga

HBKU Alumni Stories: Dr. Sara Al-Khawaga

16 Oct 2023

HBKU is rightly proud of all its alumni and the positive contributions they make to their professions at home and abroad. This includes Dr. Sara Al-Khawaga, whose academic journey began elsewhere but continues with the university to this very day.

Dr. Sara Al-Khawaga

With its specific focus on research and graduate studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) is often the final stop on a student’s journey to their personal and professional ambitions. Then there’s alumna like Dr. Sara Al-Khawaga, whose academic odyssey began at Education City before taking her overseas and then returning home to conclude her studies and forge a successful career within Qatar. Here’s the story of her remarkable journey.

As soon as she joined Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar’s (WCM-Q) Medical Doctor program, Dr. Sara instinctively knew that Education City and Qatar Foundation was going to have a profound impact on her life. She was now part of a community that inspired its students to fully cultivate their intellectual curiosity and be a force for positive transformation at home and further afield. Thanks to the support and guidance provided by WCM-Q’s teaching staff and fellow students, Dr. Sara was set on a path towards a fulfilling career in medicine. Next stop was Harvard Medical School and its Cancer Biology & Therapeutics program.

Dr. Sara’s year at Harvard sharpened her interest in biological and biomedical sciences and left her even thirstier for knowledge. She knew from prior experience that precision medicine was one of HBKU’s primary research focus areas, making studying for a Ph.D. with the College of Health and Life Sciences (CHLS) a logical next step. From day one, Dr. Sara was encouraged to immerse herself in HBKU’s diverse, dynamic, and innovative research ecosystem. This eventually led to the type of highly sophisticated stem cell research activities that are only conducted in a handful of centers worldwide, as well as cross-collaboration with the likes of Sidra Medicine and Hamad Medical Corporation.

With the support of her HBKU supervisors and colleagues, Dr. Sara published multiple academic articles on pluripotent stem cell technology and next-generation sequencing (NGS) over the course of her Ph.D. studies and post-doctoral fellowship. Doing so also laid the foundations for high-impact quality of clinical research in the fields of dermatology and immunology. Dr. Sara continues to publish her research, particularly into chronic skin conditions affecting the elderly and pregnant women. She currently leads Qatar’s Geriatric Dermatology Service (GeriDerm) project, as well as the development of National Clinical Practice Guidelines for the management of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS)/Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN).

Dr. Sara currently balances her position as Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor at HBKU’s CHLS with a specialist role in dermatology and venereology at Hamad Medical Corporation. Dividing her time between teaching and research allows her to share knowledge and experience with academics, healthcare professionals, and students, while seeking opportunities for future projects and collaborations. The latter includes an increased focus on chronic inflammatory skin diseases, the psychological impact of these conditions, blistering disorders, and drug eruption.

Looking ahead, Dr. Sara knows that HBKU will continue to support her research and teaching activities, not to mention her enduring commitment to addressing Qatar’s healthcare priorities. Indeed, Dr. Sara’s already impressive achievements in these fields haven’t gone unnoticed. In 2021, she received the National Educational Excellence in Research Award from His Highness the Amir Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, and more recently the much-coveted Regional Research Award from the Arab Board. She has no doubts about the role HBKU’s cutting edge research facilities, international partnerships, and supportive learning environment played in helping her achieve these accolades.

Dr. Sara has a message for anyone interested in pursuing graduate studies with HBKU. If you’re looking for an inclusive, creative, and innovative learning environment, then look no further. HBKU encourages all its students to ask questions, think outside the box, and develop novel solutions for some of today’s most pressing challenges. Its faculty and mentors will invest in your learning experience with expert advice, constructive feedback, and regular encouragement. They want your success just as much as you do.

The Arabic version of this article was published by Al-Sharq, and can be accessed here.