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Arnold School of Public Health

May graduate strives to lead healthcare policy analysis in Saudi Arabia with Ph.D. in health services policy and management

May 7, 2018 | Erin Bluvas,

Growing up in the peaceful beachside town of Khobar, Saudi Arabia, Duaa Aljabri knew early on that she would pursue a career in the health field. She earned a bachelor’s degree in health information technology from the University of Dammam and then worked as a quality management specialist for the National Guard Hospital in Saudi Arabia before returning to her alma mater as a lecturer.

In 2012, Aljabri completed a master’s in quality management and health systems from King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, a top-tier university in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Both of her academic programs cultivated Aljabri’s interest in healthcare management and policy.

“There are limited Ph.D. graduates in healthcare policy analysis at the national level in Saudi Arabia, and I wanted to be one of those few who serve my country in this field,” says Aljabri, who notes that scientists from universities in the United States (including USC), the United Kingdom and Canada often visited her university. “The Arnold School’s curriculum, diversity of courses, reputation and responsiveness of faculty members, and the research culture boosted my interest to attend USC.”

During her doctoral program in health services policy and management (HSPM), Aljabri developed expertise in analyzing and implementing national healthcare policies as well as assessing outcomes in both the managerial and clinical practice levels. In addition to serving as a graduate research assistant and data analyst in her department, Aljabri also created the curriculum for a potential new course, International Health, under the mentorship of HSPM professor Sudha Xirasagar.

“Dr. Xirasagar inspired me from the first class I took with her in my first year, and I knew I needed her as a mentor,” Aljabri says. “Her ability to ask us challenging questions always made me look further into topics I thought I knew very well!”

Aljabri also found mentors in HSPM professor Ronnie Horner and HSPM professor and chair Mahmud Khan. “Dr. Horner’s deep knowledge in statistics motivated me to challenge myself in new ways and get the best out of my studies,” Aljabri says. “Dr. Khan had a major impact on easing any obstacle may arise throughout my doctoral study journey. He always had his door open with a smile, empowering me with continuous advice and encouragement.”

The Arnold School’s curriculum, diversity of courses, reputation and responsiveness of faculty members, and the research culture boosted my interest to attend USC.

-Duaa Aljabri, Ph.D. in health services policy and management graduate 

After completing her coursework in 2015, Aljabri moved to Jacksonville, Florida where she began her pre-doctoral appointment with the Mayo Clinic while she continued working on her dissertation remotely. At Mayo Clinic, Aljabri’s work focused on projects with innovative ideas that improve the delivery of healthcare, such as implementing electronic patient-reported outcomes measures that assess patient's health, quality of life, and functional status associated with treatment. Her projects also included assessments of the usability of inpatient health information electronic portals, cost-effectiveness of pain management approaches in orthopedic surgeries, and evaluations of treatment-related toxicities in radiation oncology.

“I should thank Dr. Khan for giving me the flexibility to seek opportunities in wider boundaries,” she says. “With his encouragement, I was able to connect with scientists in Mayo Clinic, and the two years I spent there opened a whole new world of research possibilities in health services research.”

After her May graduation, Aljabri accepted an assistant professor role in her hometown and plans to continue her collaborations with Mayo Clinic remotely. She strives to strengthen her skills as a scientist and researcher to lead healthcare management and policy in Saudi Arabia.

“Shape your dissertation idea early or during the first doctoral year, and tailor your elective courses to ensure you are learning what will help you the most in your dissertation topic,” Aljabri advises prospective doctoral students. “Also, get involved with faculty’s ongoing research, look for a fellowship opportunity that improves your research skills, and build connections that extends beyond your study years.”

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