Undergraduate palliative care education in the United Arab Emirates: a nationwide assessment of medical school deans

Thana Harhara, Halah Ibrahim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: The provision of comprehensive, high quality palliative care (PC) is a global public health concern. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), palliative medicine services are limited, and most patients in need of PC are treated in the acute hospital setting, where health professionals of all specialties provide treatment. Improving end-of-life care requires teaching medical students, residents, and other healthcare professionals about PC. The purpose of this study was to assess the current status of PC education in medical schools in the UAE, and to identify barriers to successful implementation of a PC and end-of-life curriculum. Methods: The authors conducted semi-structured interviews with deans from all medical schools in the UAE. Data were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Results: All medical school deans in our study recognized the importance of inculcating palliative and end-of-life care into the undergraduate curriculum, but there was substantial variability in implementation, with opportunities for improvement. Barriers to the successful implementation of an undergraduate PC curriculum include (1) lack of student awareness and interest in PC, (2) inconsistent clinical exposure to PC, (3) lack of specialized PC faculty, (4) limited clinical facilities for PC training, (5) lack of a multidisciplinary approach to PC education, and (6) cultural barriers to PC education. Conclusions: Understanding challenges to teaching PC in the undergraduate medical curriculum can help inform educational interventions to improve PC knowledge and skills for UAE medical students. Curricular and policy reform are necessary to educate a future generation of health professionals, who can provide high quality palliative care services to UAE patients and their families.

Original languageBritish English
Article number526
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • End-of-life care
  • Middle East
  • Palliative care
  • Undergraduate medical education
  • United Arab Emirates


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