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Student Spotlight: Amna Nasser Ahli, Future Doctor Helping Advance the UAE’s Health Sector

August 11, 2020

When asked what she wants to do in the future, Amna Nasser Abdullah Ali Ahli said she wants to focus on helping to improve the country’s medical sector. 
Amna graduated with a Biomedical Engineering degree with honors at Khalifa University and is currently a medical student at KU, pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor. Even during her undergrad days, she has always been interested in medicine. In fact, Amna, together with her teammates Fatima Yousif Alshamsi, Sarah Ismail Alali, and Tamader Omar Alhouqani, under the guidance of Dr. Habiba Alsafar, Associate Professor of Genetics and Molecular Biology and Director of the Center for Biotechnology (BTC), developed the Thyroid-on-a-ChiP device to help people make decisions that can prevent and/or treat thyroid cancer. This innovative device was one of the projects that secured funding and support from the Expo 2020 University Innovation Program (UIP) of Expo Live. 
Thyroid cancer is the third most common cancer type prevalent in the UAE. Amna and her groupmates saw that there is a need for advanced diagnostic tools that will help screen the population and in turn reduce the risk factors that can result in thyroid cancer for patients that are susceptible to this disease. 
“Thyroid-on-a-Chip is a project that I worked on and am still working on with my colleagues at KU. After assessing the need in the UAE and by knowing that thyroid cancer can be caused by environmental factors, we developed a personalized diagnostic tool designed to look for biomedical markers in the human body that indicate if a person is susceptible to developing thyroid cancer. This diagnostic tool is specific to the Emirati/Arab population as we are studying biomarkers in Emirati patients only,” explained Amna. 
“I am so proud of what we have established, and so honored that our project was chosen as one of the top projects presented. And I am very glad that Dubai Expo Live2020 funded our project, because the UAE is developing rapidly, and developing the medical sector is essential to provide a better healthcare for the patients,” she said. 
“I have a biomedical engineering background and I am now studying medicine. This has made health and patient care important to me. If I will work on future projects, it will always combine both my biomedical engineering and medical backgrounds toward finding solutions to help patients and improve the medical sector of the UAE,” Amna revealed. 
Amna admits that KU has been an integral part in helping her achieve her dream. “In my long journey at KU, I can describe it as a place where I can explore all my possible potential and move forward with them. It has made it possible for me to study medicine and make my lifelong dream come true. Also, as KU is ranked as the #1 university in the UAE, it makes me so proud that I get to study here.”
“I am also very lucky to be part of the first batch of the MD program at KU, it is unique and the only one in the country. This program has made it possible for me to continue my journey in medicine.”
Khalifa University’s College of Medicine and Health Sciences offers a four-year Medical Doctor (MD) program that incorporates an innovative curricular design and employs a variety of education strategies that blends problem-based learning and clinical experiences to enable students gain the competencies expected of all physicians. KU’s MD graduates will be fully prepared to enter residency training in any specialty anywhere in the world, with the ultimate goal of being able to seamlessly integrate technology into the delivery of personalized, preventative healthcare.
“I believe KU is very successful in establishing this unique program and it will create physicians who are at the same level of competency with the best and most prestigious medical programs worldwide. I highly appreciate the support our leaders have given this program to make it possible and successful.”
Ara Cruz
Creative Writer
17 August 2020

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