Fueling Medical Discovery

Before Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH) launched, medical research was not a key focus of Saudi Aramco’s health care division.

However, a pioneering group of Saudi Aramco physicians took it upon themselves to advance research efforts. For years they performed investigator-initiated research—studying the diseases and analyzing the data they saw in their practice, publishing in peer-reviewed journals and initiating collaborations with neighboring institutions.

In 2012, these investigators created an informal research office to provide administrative support, and they started an institutional review board in 2013 to ensure appropriate research methodology.

But they had few resources—capital or human—to fuel their discovery.

So when Johns Hopkins joined with Saudi Aramco and entered into the JHAH joint venture in 2014, we made it a goal to expand this budding program. This collaboration was a great opportunity to share our experience with JHAH and work with them to create a research program that works as part of their own mission. Ideally, we saw JHAH transforming how its key stakeholders view and perform medical research.

In the early stages, a team of our experts assessed JHAH’s needs and worked to develop a culture conducive to research within JHAH that would be built on the shoulders of the pioneering group.

In parallel, JHM and JHAH also established bridges between likeminded investigators from both organizations, promoting a multidisciplinary approach to research and providing ample opportunities for education and training. As a boon, JHAH also received internal approval and $300,000 in funding to grow its own research program.

Investigators from JHAH and JHM presented joint neurology research in collaboration with the University of Dammam, and they shared their first-ever collaborative research work at the largest international urology summit in 2016.

Together, they have published seven joint studies, including “Kidney stone composition in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” in the journal Clinical Nephrology, and “Abdominal surgical site infection prophylaxis,” in the Annals of Medicine and Surgery.

For the past two years, JHM and JHAH also have jointly presented an intensive three-day course on clinical research to continue to build the foundation for a research culture at JHAH. And earlier this year, leading investigators from JHM and JHAH presented at JHAH’s inaugural Research Day, captured in the photo above. The event brought together more than 40 international experts to explore ways to enhance patient safety and the quality of care—and it revealed just how far research has evolved at JHAH.

The idea now is to capture that energy and provide more support—whether it’s infrastructure or education—for JHAH to continue to build on its strong foundation and become a leader in medical discovery in Saudi Arabia.