QNRF Newsletter Archive

Dr. Thenaa Said, Program Manager for Biomedical and Health Sciences

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After 16 years as a faculty member and researcher at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA—specializing in breast cancer research—Dr. Thenaa Said joined QNRF in 2006. She is excited about the growth and development occurring in Qatar and the future of medical and all sectors of research therein.

Q: What stands out and excites you about living in Qatar?
A: I enjoy being part of the progress that is taking place in Qatar and believe that the excitement and enthusiasm of living in Qatar comes from working hard to get over challenges inherent to the development of world-class, health-related projects that are underway. Qataris have a dream to accomplish, and we are witnessing the country flourish and develop. Qatar has always helped other countries in many ways, and in return, experts from many countries are contributing to accomplish Qatar's dreams. What is better than helping others attain their dreams?

Q: How long have you been with QNRF?
A: I started working in QNRF since its inception, on October 1st, 2006. I thought, "I will stay for one year to check if I like it." Here I am in my seventh year.

Q: How would you say that QNRF is different from other funding organizations around the world?
A: My response is purely related to medical research. At this point, it is a mistake to compare QNRF to other funding agencies due to the fact that it is still a nascent organization, as well as readiness of the country’s research infrastructure, availability as well as interest of medical experts in research, public understanding around the concept of research, involvement of entrepreneurs in research investment, and all of the support built around established funding agencies worldwide. QNRF has a golden opportunity, however, to develop and excel among world-class funding agencies by focusing on funding models to fill the gaps for societal benefits.

Q: You are the Program Manager for biomedical and health—what does this mean, what do you oversee?
A: I have two roles, one as Program Manager, overseeing the operation of pre- and post-award projects in the medical fields. In this role I have two Program Officers who provide excellent support. The other role is to provide QNRF with my expertise in areas other than pre- and post-project management—such as development of new funding programs, guidelines and policies; representing QNRF in steering committees with other stakeholders in the development of health-related projects, and preparation of reports to assist QNRF.

Q: How would you describe an average day in this role?
A: The average day has changed dramatically as QNRF has moved from phase one to phase two of its business plan. Currently, there is much to do daily to catch up with the demands and ambitions of how we would like to see QNRF operate to best serve the investigators. Each day is built upon continual hard work, learning from other international funding organizations, analyzing weak areas and promptly fixing them, as well as adjusting internal and external operational procedures and gridlines to better serve the scientific community inside and outside Qatar. As Qatar undergoes rapid growth, including that in the area of research, the average day never ends by 3:30 p.m. This is also very much related to the personality of an individual, how he or she manages daily activities. So, yes, my average day is primarily work; however, I manage to spend a little time resting and recharging over the weekends.

Q: What are some of the highlights of your position at QNRF—things that give you the most satisfaction?
A: I get the most satisfaction from my position at QNRF when I feel that my expertise has made a difference when I am working with stakeholders and international consultants on a specific health-related project. Such satisfaction comes from teamwork and learning from each other to achieve the completion of well-defined, health-related projects.

Q: If you were to share one valuable insight from your experience with the research community, what would it be?
A: Please, communicate with QNRF experts in advance of submitting your proposals to avoid disappointment when applying for funding for your excellent research ideas.

Q: What do you see in the future for Qatar, as a nation, and its research community?
A: I am highly optimistic. Qatar is on the right path, applying its wealth to education, research and development of the local community. These three objectives together will certainly develop an educated, healthy and prosperous nation. Regarding the future of the research community, I foresee an increase in competition for funding for medical researchers here in Qatar, which will foster better quality research as well as improved opportunities, regulations and policies. These will attract high-quality scientists in areas that are a grand challenges in Qatar, the region and the world. I hope all Arab countries will work in that direction for their societal benefits.

Q: Any other insights you would like to share from your experience with QNRF?
A: After being a faculty member for 30 years in medical schools in Iraq and the US, working in QNRF has been a huge change in my career. It is a move to the other side of the fence—from being an applicant, seeking research support for my own research to being a receiver of applications for funding from other researchers. This change in career has given me the opportunity to draw from my experience together with the experiences of my colleagues in QNRF as we build QNRF funding programs, policies and procedures. Understanding work on both sides of the fence makes me mindful of what the researchers would require for success as they apply for funding. All of this said, I have one bit of advice for young researchers: never ever give up on applying for funds if you believe in your scientific idea.

Dr. Said, we thank you very much for this interview and wish you the best of luck with all of your future work at QNRF.
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