Demonstrating the diversity of subjects in which AUC students excel, Amal Matar was recently awarded the Pillars of PRIM&R Memorial Fund Award by Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R), an American nonprofit dedicated to the advancement of ethics in biomedical, social science, behavioral, and educational research. Matar, who is also a Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Fellow, received the award in recognition of her work in promoting research ethics throughout Egypt and the Middle East.
Matar, who earned an MD from Ain Shams University in 2000, enrolled in the masters program in journalism and mass communication at AUC, planning to work in the field of health communications. Shortly after enrolling, AUC began an MA program in biotechnology and Matar enrolled in that program as well. “The biotechnology program seemed like a great opportunity,” she said, “it was related to my undergraduate work, and has AUC’s standard of quality. If I continue to work in health communications, it is important that my knowledge of biotechnology remains current and this program ensures that I have those tools.”
“Medical research has increased in Egypt as pharmaceutical companies have increased their marketing in developing countries,” said Matar. “In many cases, medical patients are poor and illiterate and willing to take what their physician says for granted. Often patients are not empowered and do not understand their rights regarding research that is being conducted.”
Matar’s research involves interviews with Internal Review Board (IRB) members in Egypt at the National Research Center, the National Cancer Institute, Ain Shams University Medical School and at other universities to inquire into their decision-making process as it relates to research rights and other challenges.
The Pillars of PRIM&R Memorial Fund Award provides awards to qualified applicants whose scholarship in the field of research ethics reflects PRIM&R's mission and core values. Recipients earn a stipend to continue their research and are invited to the organization’s conference to present their work.
Matar plans to use the stipend to continue her research in other parts of the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Qatar. She hopes that her work will identify obstacles to standard setting for pharmaceutical companies seeking to conduct research in Egypt and help IRBs position themselves to better protect the rights of patients.
“The field of research and bioethics is quite new to the Middle East and to AUC. Because of what is happening internationally and globally, there are many new technologies and research methods. It is important that all these new developments must also be subject to the basic tests of research ethics,” Matar concludes.