Alexander Woodman, PhD, MPH, M.Sci | Global Clinical Scholars Research Training, Training to Teach in Medicine
As head of the Scientific Research Department at King Fahad Medical Complex in Saudi Arabia and assistant professor of clinical preventive medicine and public health there, Alexander Woodman, PhD, MPH, M.Sci, merges epidemiological data with state-of-the-art laboratory technologies to find new ways to understand a variety of conditions impacting people who live in the Kingdom.
“I oversee five departments and direct research faculty members. In addition, I actively collaborate with leading internal and external institutions and develop and implement strategies to establish a bridge between Western and Saudi clinical researchers,” he says.
Strengthening Clinical Research Skills
Woodman recently attended Harvard Medical School’s Global Clinical Scholars Research Training (GCSRT) program to build on his research skills and become part of the Saudi health system transformation.
“I applied for GCSRT to use my newfound knowledge and improved skills to build value-based health care strategies in Saudi Arabia and globally,” Woodman notes. Although he grew up in California, the Saudi people and culture captured his heart as a young man. This prompted him to relocate there and ultimately inspired him to focus on improving that country’s health.
His passion for Saudi Arabia also led him to write a book and accompanying documentary, “The Land of ‘Adat,” which takes an in-depth look at the beauty of the Kingdom, its norms, and its deeply rooted traditions. All these elements have ultimately helped to frame his efforts toward creating a healthier future while still preserving the core of the culture.
“I have dedicated almost ten years of my career to working and collaborating with leading clinical researchers, doctors, medical educators, and ethicists in Saudi Arabia to ensure that scientific research can be conceptual and creative. Now, after graduating from the program, I hope to expand my collaborations and continue to build bridges between the knowledge, experience, and know-how of miscellaneous experts,” Woodman says.
Developing a New Model of Care
“In an evolving and ever-changing world, this program leads us toward the right framework of leadership, which empowers scientists to overcome challenges,” Woodman says. He hopes the insights he has gained through the program will help strengthen his efforts to transform the Saudi Arabian health system to meet future needs.
“As head of the Scientific Research Department, I want to be part of a value-based care system, which ensures transparency and sustainability by promoting public health,” he reveals. He is accomplishing this goal by helping to develop a new model of care related to disease prevention using the best evidence-based international standards.
“I also recently learned about one of the most empowering virtues of life—namely, collective leadership, which inspires individual leaders to share and lead in medicine,” he says. “The GCSRT program also expanded my ability to plan and conduct both observational and experimental clinical trials; analyze, interpret and present data from clinical trials; and lead clinical teams in various medical institutions,” he adds.
Woodman’s research focuses on reproductive health, genetics and quality of life that contributes to well-being and longevity. To this end, he is currently involved in a number of projects, including conducting research on the impact of leptin gene mutations on overweight and obese individuals, which was the subject of his capstone project for the Global Clinical Scholars Research Training program.
“Despite a large number of reports of LEP variants being associated with obesity in various populations, there have been few reports in Saudi Arabia, especially in the Eastern Province, where the rates of obesity are the highest. Thus, my capstone aimed to investigate leptin gene mutations and the relationship between the prevalent LEP G-2548A variant and BMI, serum leptin levels, glucose levels, and lipid profiles in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia,” he explains.
The skills Woodman gained throughout the in-depth capstone process exploring this topic continue to guide his efforts to build on the project.
“The faculty and staff were genuinely interested in working with the participants. The program also allowed us to both study and conduct research alongside a talented group of peers from all over the world. The collaborative spirit strengthened our pursuit for a deeper knowledge of clinical research that also often went beyond our capstone project or research focus and helped me direct my career toward a higher level of vision and leadership,” he adds.
Building a Network of Experts
In addition to all of the knowledge he gained through the program, Woodman says that the relationships he made with other scholars and continues to cultivate are one of the most important benefits he took away.
“One of the best experiences was interacting with people who came from all over the world and shared their knowledge, experience, and respect for diversity. It was an enriching opportunity, which helped me understand that each individual has something valuable to offer toward the benefit of science,” he stresses.
Positioning for Success
Since completing the clinical scholars training program, Woodman participated in the Training to Teach Medicine program, also through Harvard Medical School. These experiences provided a perfect opportunity to build on his already strong educational background, which includes earning a bachelor’s and master’s from UCLA, USC, a doctorate in Public Health from the University of Salford in Manchester, England, and post-doctorate training at Yale University. He points out that all these educational experiences have allowed him to meet the future from a position of strength.
Now, he hopes to continue to grow on the job.
“I would like to focus on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations with 17 Sustainable Development Goals, an urgent call for action by all countries in a global partnership. I would like to be part of this global health transformation by contributing to Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages,” he says.
“With more than a decade of hands-on experience, I am passionate about developing unique and innovative research by combining public health, clinical research, and the socioeconomic backgrounds of diverse communities worldwide,” he adds.
Written by Lisa D. Ellis.