UAB and Saudi Arabia signingFormer UAB President Carol Garrison, Chair Gerald Glandon and Khalid Sabr with the King Fahad Specialist Hospital-DammamWhen the King Fahad Specialist Hospital-Dammam in Saudia Arabia decided to build a new 1,500-bed hospital, they realized they needed someone to train their hospital administrators. The hospital decided to ask UAB’s top-ranked Department of Health Services Administration to teach their 35 physicians/administrators.

The two-year, $2.2 million dollar partnership agreement was formally signed at a ceremony on Wednesday by  UAB President Carol Garrison, School of Health Professions Dean Harold Jones, Department of Health Services Administration Chair Gerald Glandon and Khalid Sabr, executive director of medical and clinical affairs at King Fahad Specialist Hospital-Dammam.

“This is an exciting opportunity for UAB,” Garrison says. “Our programs in health administration are among the best in the United States, ranking in the top five. Our faculty are among the best in teaching an academic or experiential program in health administration. I believe we have something to bring to the table in health administration leadership, and at the same time, this is a great opportunity for our faculty to learn from the staff at King Fahad Specialist Hospital-Dammam as well.”

The physicians/administrators will enroll in the department’s Master of Science in Health Administration Executive program. Three UAB faculty members will teach in person in Saudi Arabia at least once a semester for a week beginning in January. A total of 12 UAB faculty members will teach during the two-year program with a majority of the classes conducted online.

“We are looking forward to this collaboration,” Sabr says. “We are moving from a 400-bed hospital to a 1,500-bed hospital, and one of our major challenges is human resources. The biggest impact of that change is the leadership and middle management that we will need. For the past year, the team at UAB has worked with our team, led by Samar Al Saggaf, director of medical and health sciences programs department, to establish this program. We are fortunate to have UAB interested in working with us and facilitate this program. It’s an opportunity for us to learn from you, learn from your perspectives and take that knowledge and try to apply it.”

Sabr says the new hospital will be built and in operation in 48 months. It will serve as more of an academic center than a tertiary hospital, Sabr says, which is why he says it’s important to have strong middle management leadership; many physicians in Saudi Arabia also currently hold the role of administrator. It’s an arrangement not well suited for the new hospital, which will be almost four times the capacity of their current hospital in Dammam.

“In order for us to function properly and establish this center, we have to give our people the tools to do it,” Sabr says. “UAB’s leadership program is considered one of the best, and we decided it was the one we wanted to give to our staff in order to help them accomplish their tasks. By the time we open the hospital, we will have two complete programs that have graduated, which would give us the staff that we need to operate the hospital.”