An Influential Arab Scholar Focuses on the Health of Mothers and Newborns
AMMAN—It was not easy to arrange an interview with Yusuf Al-Qaoud. Amid his lectures at Jordan University of Science and Technology’s Faculty of Medicine, public health research, and ongoing training for his fellow doctors and nurses, the researcher and professor hardly has enough time to sleep.
Recently, and for the third year in a row, Al-Qaoud ranked first in listings of the most-cited researchers in Jordan by Scopus and Google Scholar, two databases that track how often scholarly articles about a particular topic or by a particular author are cited in papers published by other researchers. His best-known research examines the health of mothers and their newborn children and tries to use the results to improve the health-care system.
Research involving Al-Qaoud as a principal author or co-author was cited 12,383 times over the past year, according to the databases.
Much of Al-Qaoud’s research is conducted in collaboration with researchers in the United States and Africa. “Research partnerships are very important in developing and improving the quality of research,” he said. “This certainly encourages many researchers to take advantage of these studies and cite them.”
Al-Qaoud’s path to a research career began in 1994, when he received his bachelor’s degree in dentistry from Jordan University of Science and Technology. He then worked for two years in a private clinic before going back to the university to earn a master’s degree in epidemiology. Later, he moved to the United States to earn a master’s degree in public health and a doctorate in biostatistics and epidemiology at Tulane University. He returned to Jordan again before going on to obtain a master’s degree in medical education from Maastricht University in the Netherlands. He later received the British Fellowship in Public Health.
In 2011, Al-Qaoud won the Young Researcher Award from the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation for his research in Jordan. The award’s statement notes that he was selected for the prize because of “his scientific and research achievements, as he has published more than 140 papers in international journals, which have been characterized by originality, scientific methodology, accuracy and its applications in practical life.”
Al-Qaoud thinks of research as “a tool to solve health problems in the region, which are increasing day after day as a result of Arab wars and conflicts.”
In two decades of research, his work on health issues related to children and motherhood has received the most attention locally. In 2013, the ministry of health adopted his research on deaths among newborns and their causes as a key pillar in the development of a national plan to improve health care, especially in the kingdom’s efforts to reduce the infant mortality rate.
“The research highlighted the problems of the health-care system provided to the mothers and neonates [newborn infants] in Jordan,” he said, “So, I have been asked to develop a plan to improve this system and later to hold workshops to discuss ways of implementing the plan with staff at the ministry of health, Unicef and the Higher Population Council.”
Al-Qaoud continues his research on related topics. He completed some research on the development of an electronic-monitoring system to help reduce neonatal mortality in Jordan’s hospitals, and conducts training workshops for those working in that field.
At the teaching level, Al-Qaoud, who has been teaching at the University of Science and Technology since 2003, is an inspiring professor for many young researchers at the university.
“Al-Qaoud is an example of a modest researcher who communicates information to students with ease,” said Nihaya al-Sheyab, an assistant professor at the university’s nursing school. “He is also a researcher who is always looking for issues of interest to his community, especially those on which there is not enough research.”
Al-Sheyab benefited from Al-Qaoud’s skills when she was engaged in research on smoking among teenagers and others who attend school.
“He helped me a lot in transforming the underlying problem” into a research question, “in addition to statistically analyzing it,” she said. “He was aware of it because of his exposure to our society’s health problems.”
Despite the volume of his own research, Al-Qaoud says there are many difficulties for researchers at universities in the Arab region, including heavy teaching loads.
“In Jordan and the Arab world, the researcher is overstuffed with courses and does not have enough time for scientific research,” he said. “The teaching system depends on teaching, while in the United States, the educational system depends on research first.”
“Unfortunately, scientific research is a luxury” for many Arab scientists, he said. “Much research is being done by researchers to get promotions on the academic level and not to develop specific solutions to health problems that society suffers from.”
In his own future research projects, Al-Qaoud is keen to cooperate with researchers in sociology, anthropology and health economics to try to analyze factors that contribute to common chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. He also hopes to carry out research on stem cells.
“The path is still long and there is a lot to do here,” he said.