Coping with a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Women at Work in Oman and Challenges in Work-Life Balance
Mind Over Matter
SQU Day Celebrated with Splendor
News Update
You Don’t Miss
the Water Until
Your Falaj Runs Dry
Department of Public
Relations and Information
Sultan Qaboos University
Issue 315
View Point
Equal Opportunities
Mohamed Salem Al Ghailani
Editorial Supervision
Santhosh Muthalath
Senior Editor
Sara Al Gheilani
Nasebah Al Muharrami
Ahlam Al Wahaibi
Design & Layout
Photography Dept., CET
Salim Al Sudairi
Students with disabilities deserve equal opportunities with others in an educational institution. With regard to enrolment to the universities also, students with disabilities should have the same opportunities as the rest of the
students. At universities, student development or counselling centers or student affairs deanships can coordinate various services offered to differently
abled students. Such an office can carry out the requirements of their educational objectives with various combinations of assistance. The office should
address itself to overcoming barriers caused by problems or difficulties of
physical, sensory, emotional, and learning arenas. The center can play a key
role in heightening of college and community awareness of various disabilities. The disability service center of an academic institution has the responsibility to empower students to better understand their strengths and how
they can contribute these to the world of work.
When it comes to infrastructure, universities should maintain a barrier free
environment, easily accessible to the physically disabled and to others. Accommodations for students with disabilities should include test-taking arrangements, specialized equipment, liaison with faculty, and liaison with
community agencies. Core services to students with disabilities should include academic, personal, and vocational counseling. The center can also
help the student to understand the nature of their disability through the use
of individual counseling, group discussion, videotapes, and other accessible
resources. Learning to use tutoring, accommodations, advocacy, and other
aids, along with a better understanding of interpersonal relationships and
how to work with instructors should be emphasized.
The symposium on “Higher Education and Disabilities: Opportunities &
Challenges” organized by the Special Needs Section of the Deanship of Student Affairs, in collaboration with the “Friends of Society” student group at
SQU, shed light on the potential of people with disabilities, the global convention on the rights of persons with disabilities in the field of education, the
need to create equal opportunities for them in institutions of higher education and to qualify the academic staff to deal with students with disabilities.
The event was an eye opener on opportunities and services to differently
abled students. Activities of this sort will pave way for more disabled students to get enrolment at the universities and provide them with the tools,
reasonable accommodations and support services to participate fully in the
academic environment.
Horizon invites contributions from SQU members of staff and faculty. Contributions in the form of
articles, news, travelogues, stories of unique and interesting experiences, encounters, etc., are welcome. Contributions may be edited for the sake of clarity and length. Please send your contributions
to [email protected] preferably, as MSWord attachments. Authors will be suitably credited.
The views and opinions expressed in the articles published in this newsletter are those of the authors
and are not to be construed as the official views of the publication. Horizon is published three times a
month by the Department of Public Relations and Information, Sultan Qaboos University, P.O. Box 50,
P.C. 123, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.
Phone: +968 24141045
E-mail: [email protected]
10 May 2015
Fax: +968 24413 391
News Update
HM’s Grant for
Six Projects
Prof. Amer Al Rawas, the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Postgraduate
Studies & Research, in his speech during the University Day function
on 3 May, announced the 6 research projects selected for His Majesty’s
Research Trust Fund for the year 2015. The projects are as follows (the
principal investigator’s names in brackets): (1) Evaluating the efficiency of Oman insurance market (Dr. Khalid Said Al Amri, Department of Operations Management and Business Statistics, College of
Economics & Political Science; (2) The impact of social media on Omani youth: a multimodal project (Dr. Najma Jaffar Al Zadjali, Department of English, College of Arts & Social Sciences); (3) Investigating
the anti-cancer properties of natural products isolated from date fruits
of the Omani elite variety ‘Khalas” (Dr. Younis Baqi, Department of
Chemistry, College of Science); (4) Diagnosis and reservoir quality
evaluation of middle Cambrian to early Ordovician clastic hydrocarbon reservoirs in Oman interior sedimentary basin (Dr. Mohammed
El Ghali, Department of Earth Science, College of Science); (5) The
social, economic and cultural influence of the developmental projects
in Duqm area (Dr. Muneer Karadsheh, Humanities Research Centre,
SQU; (6) Geological exploration, mapping, economic potential and
assessment of the dimension stone resources of Oman (Prof. Sobhi
Nasir, Earth Science Research Centre, SQU).
Turkey Keen to Boost
Ties with SQU
H.H. Sayyidah Dr. Mona bint Fahad Al Said, Assistant Vice Chancellor for International Cooperation at Sultan Qaboos University, recently received H.E. Uğur Doğan, the Ambassador of the Republic
of Turkey to the Sultanate of Oman. The two sides reviewed existing
ties between SQU and Turkish higher educational institutions and
discussed means to strengthen the partnerships. At present, a group
of female students from Marmara University in Turkey is pursuing
Arabic and Islamic studies courses at the College of Arts & Social Sciences at SQU.
The Ambassador underscored the need to enhance collaboration between Turkish universities and SQU through exchange of students
and faculty members. “Turkish universities are well-placed to launch
cooperation with institutions like SQU. We understand that SQU is
keen to establish ties with Turkish higher educational institutions
in the field of medical education and research, and the Embassy is
pleased to facilitate effective partnerships and meaningful collaborations in this field”. The Ambassador thanked SQU for hosting 10
female students from Marmara University who are in Oman to learn
Arabic and Islamic studies. H.H. Sayydiah Dr. Mona Al Said and H.E.
Uğur Doğan also discussed about launching Turkish language course
at the College of Arts & Social Sciences. “This should be done within
the shortest possible time”, the two sides agreed. The Ambassador observed that since Turkey is emerging as a favorite tourist destination
for Omani people, launching Turkish language program at SQU will
benefit the two societies to a great extent. H.H. Sayydiah Dr. Mona
Al Said stressed on the need to establish more research collaboration
with Turkish universities and research institutes.
SQU Day Celebrated
with Splendor
Sultan Qaboos University celebrated the 15th Sultan Qaboos
University Day on Sunday, 3rd May 2015, with a number
of activities including seminars and exhibitions. The opening ceremony was held at the Grand Hall of the university
under the patronage of H.E. Dr Yahya bin Mahfoudh Al
Manthri, Chairman of the State Council. The highlight of the
day was the announcement of the research projects selected
for His Majesty’s Strategic Fund. The best researchers, distinguished academicians, distinguished physicians and outstanding students were honored at the function. Thereafter,
the chief guest opened the research exhibition by various
colleges and research centers and an art exhibition by the
fine arts group.
Speaking on the occasion, H.E. Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bimani,
the Vice Chancellor of Sultan Qaboos University outlined
many of the achievements of the university and its community during the academic year 2014-2015. “The university inaugurated the Self Learning Center which provides different
services for the students including workshops, specialized
seminars and electronic services. The initial design for the
electronic umbrella to be installed on wheel chairs used by
students with disabilities is nearing completion”, he said.
In his speech, Prof. Amer bin Ali Al Rawas, SQU Deputy
Vice Chancellor for Postgraduate Studies & Research, said
that 2014-2015 academic year witnessed tremendous developments in terms of research at SQU. During the period
from 1995 to 2014, SQU carried out 455 consultancy research
projects with a total value of OMR 17773651. In the year 2014
alone, SQU researchers bagged open research grants for 18
projects from the Research Council (TRC). The total value of
these projects stands at OMR 2778030. From 2010 to 2014,
SQU grabbed 71 projects from TRC with a total value OMR
8682295. Apart from registering two patents with the US
patent office, a new patent has been filed by four researchers
from the College of Engineering for developing a system to
convert portable document format file to braille.
In the evening, the closing ceremony of the University Day
celebrations was held at the Grand Hall under the patronage
of H.E. Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bemani, the Vice Chancellor. The
function included a speech of Dr. Hamed bin Suleiman AlSalmi, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Administrative and Financial Affairs, recitation of poems, and honoring a number
of employees. Various colleges and centers organized different activities including lectures and talks to mark University
Day which commemorates the visit of His Majesty to SQU
on 2nd May 2000.
10 May 2015
You Don’t Miss the Water
Until Your Falaj Runs Dry
The Aflaj is the original Omani irrigation system, deep-rooted in Oman’s
land and history. The Alflaj Irrigation System relies on water stored underground. It is extracted by gravity without the use of machines or energy,
and is then used in agriculture and all other essential uses. According to a
study on drying Aflaj system, conducted by scientists from SQU, life style
changes, population and economic growth, and lack of institutional innovations are causing noticeable damage to the rural communities living in and
around Aflaj. The Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources
(MRMWR) reported more than 1,000 dried-up Aflaj out of 4,112 in 1996.
The researchers, Dr. Slim Zekri, Associate Professor in the Department of
Natural Resources Economics at SQU, along with Ayoub Fouzai from the
University of Tunis, Tunisia, Ali Naifer from SCET-Agri Tunisie, Tunisia,
and Tariq Helmi from the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water
Resources, Sultanate of Oman, estimated the damage caused to the rural
communities due to Aflaj dry-up. They evaluated the losses in marketed agricultural products, increase in domestic water expenditures per household,
and capital losses related to changes in house and land values. The study
considered 33 dried-up Aflaj among the 1029 monitored by the MRMWR.
The results showed that on average each family in the dried-up Falaj has
lost an income equivalent of O.R. 320 per month. This highlights the importance of Aflaj as an income generator in the remote rural areas. Live Aflaj
provide fresh vegetables and healthy food as well as drinking water to the
rural population without the need for governmental intervention. The contribution of the supporting wells, whenever provided by the MRMWR, is
estimated at O.R. 1,478 per family per year. On average the annual financial
loss per family due to dry-up is estimated at O.R 3,301 per year. The total
damage cost of dried-up Aflaj, at the Sultanate level, is estimated at more
than O.R 59 million per year.
Three types of impacts due to Aflaj dry-up have been observed and measured in this study. A total of 205 farmers were interviewed and only 191 surveys were used for data analysis and loss computation. Complementary information was obtained from local water authorities. The monthly income
from Aflaj represents more than treble the social security payment provided
by government to needy families. The results show that Aflaj played and
still play a major role as a sustainable income source in the remote rural
areas and are thus a safety net against poverty. Farms provide fresh vegetables and healthy food to the rural population as well as drinking water
without the need for any governmental intervention, in a sustainable way.
10 May 2015
On the other hand, 16% of the families living in and around Aflaj were
obliged to relocate due to the dryness of Aflaj and lack of water. On average each of these families has spent 31,813 O.R. as a cost of building a new
house and the loss due to the abandoning of the old house located next
to a Falaj. The total losses in all dried-up Aflaj, at the national level, are
estimated at more than O.R 59 million per annum with the losses in drinking and domestic water estimated at O.R 15 million per year. In fact, Aflaj
used to provide water for domestic purposes without the need to install a
pipeline network to supply either groundwater or desalinated water from
the coastal area.
According to Dr. Slim Zekri , the major cause of Aflaj degradation and dryup is the lax implementation of the law protecting the mother wells and
aquifer storage. The supporting wells were found to have a positive impact mainly by reducing the damage on crop and livestock losses as well
as on household consumption. The contribution of the supporting wells is
estimated at O.R. 1,478 per family per year. Taking into consideration the
changes in land value and the cost of housing relocation those Aflaj which
benefitted from supporting wells have had lower damage cost. The results
have shown that the supporting wells contributed to limit the damage to
the families living in and around Aflaj but could not prevent it. Actually, the
supporting wells draw water from the same shallow aquifer as Aflaj, and
thus the volumes of water pumped could not provide enough relief to the
population. Consequently, preventing Aflaj from drying up is a better solution than drilling supporting wells.
Traditionally, farmers have always had plans to deal with natural drought
or lack of rainfall by reducing the cropped area and limiting it to the perennial crops. However, when the dryness of Aflaj is caused by excess pumping, from illegal wells, farmers have to organize themselves and collaborate
with the MRMWR to protect their rights. In some cases, wells were drilled
and the water use was diverted to other economic activities out of the Aflaj
areas which might have resulted in higher income than the agricultural activity. Even though this might be true, the water diversion from one user to
another user should have been done after agreements and payments to the
farmers who own the water. Economic compensation should have taken
place in such circumstances instead of an illegal transfer of water from Aflaj
water owners to other users.
This research was financed by internal grant, IG/AGR/ECON/05/01 from
Sultan Qaboos University.
Mind Over Matter
Women at Work in Oman and
Challenges in Work-Life Balance
By: Dr. Shweta Belwal & Dr. Rakesh Belwal
ers believed that it should be a collective responsibility. Employers
were of the opinion that usually women do not formally complain
about WLB issues, however they hear their complaints informally,
especially about the problems which arise out of WLB. Whilst some
private-sector companies take some proactive measures to assist
their women employees in managing WLB issues; they along with
the public sector employers admit a policy lack in the Sultanate
on this issue. A little inherent support comes from OLL, which
protects the interest of the women employees by legal provisions.
Despite common perception, stereotyping the government sector
as ‘family-friendly’ and the private sector as ‘non family friendly’
cannot be generalized for Oman, as this study encountered certain
private sector organizations offering more benefits to their employees than the government organizations.
Our study found that a variety of practices apply in Oman in the
context of leave and other benefits. Some of the FFP-related provisions, which are mostly formal in the developed world, apply
informally in tacit forms. Flexibility at work, one of the major components of FFPs, is provided to employees in Oman based either on
some understanding or sympathy. Compressed workweek, another
FFP component, is not of much importance as recent amendments
in OLL have already recommended a five-day workweek. On-site
child care attracts some employers but is considered too risky or
unhygienic to apply by certain organizations because of their specific work environments. Paid family leave, paternity leave, job share
opportunities, health insurance, and telecommuting are regarded
positively by employers but raise concerns because of difficulty in
their applicability, their cost and their socio-cultural feasibility.
Family-Friendly Policies (FFPs) aim to help employees manage their
family responsibilities, create flexible-work conditions and enable
women to perform better on both domestic and work fronts. In comparison to other countries in the Gulf, women in Oman are joining the
workforce in large numbers. This trend continues as educational and
vocational institutions within the country consistently enroll a higher
proportion of women. Currently, women comprise 55% of the total
workforce in Oman and contribute significantly in education, health,
media, banking and other business sectors. Although women’s autonomy in Oman is still limited, there have been some improvements
since the 1980s. According to a study, the recent policies of the Government of Oman provide equal rights and opportunities to women
without any discrimination in social rights, obligations and occupation of public office. Following these policies, women surpass their
male counterparts in education, and a number of them have been
appointed as ministers, as ambassadors, to other government offices
and to private sector organizations. Consequently, the educational
and work responsibilities of the women have offered them a platform
where they can bargain for less household chores and greater white
collar work. There is little evidence that partners combine occupational and family roles in Oman. Therefore, the challenges such as
work-life balance (WLB) constrain their Quality of Work Life (QWL).
Omani Labor Law (OLL) grants some privileges to working women; however, there is an overgrowing need to address specific issues
that women encounter while managing their work and family life.
By resorting to in-depth interviews of selected top-level managers
from government, public, and private sector organizations, we studied managers’ perception of WLB and QWL-related issues and also
their opinion about offering certain FFP-related benefits to working
women in Oman. The study noticed that WLB is an important issue
for working women. The views of employers from all the sectors were
more or less similar on WLB. However, some private sector employers considered that employees themselves are responsible for maintaining their WLB, while most of the public and government employ-
Despite individual differences in perception, all the sampled employers in Oman confirmed their adherence to the FFP-related
benefits as directed by OLL. The employers were enthusiastic over
granting additional benefits to their employees if needed. Employers attributed existing provisions, formal or informal, that are made
above and beyond the recommendation of OLL as mutually beneficial and helpful in increasing productivity, maintaining a healthy
environment and securing a better WLB. Whilst a majority of employers indicated positive effects of FFP-related provisions, a few
recommended exercising caution while offering them, especially
because of their possible misuse and their cost.
This research concluded that despite some provisions in OLL,
Oman lacks a clear-cut policy on FFPs. Most of the concessions to
women are granted either on the basis of a tacit understanding of
‘give and take’ or sympathy. All of the employers conform to the
provisions laid out in OLL and are willing to grant additional benefits, albeit with some differences in their perceptions. This research
recommends collective efforts that are needed to be undertaken
on three major fronts. Governmental interventions are needed to
direct organizations to classify some jobs as ‘Family Friendly’. Organizations need to observe healthy workplace practices. Families
and societies need to exhibit a supportive outlook towards working women in Oman. Following these directions, organizations in
Oman can climb a few rungs higher on the ladder to Family Friendly Policies.
This article is an edited version of the research paper titled “WorkLife Balance, Family-Friendly Policies and Quality of Work Life
Issues: Studying Employers’ Perspectives of Working Women in
Oman” which was published in the Journal of International Women’s Studies (Volume 15 | Issue 1 Article 7, Jan-2014) by the authors, Shweta Belwal and Rakesh Belwal who are faculty members
in the Faculty of Business at Sohar University, Oman. The detailed
article can be accessed from:
10 May 2015
News Round Up
Experts Discuss Issues
in Art Education
The College of Education at SQU organized the second forum of the Art
Education alumni under the patronage of H.E. Saud bin Salim Al-Balushi,
Undersecretary at the Ministry of Education for Educational Planning and
HRD in the presence of Dr. Hamed bin Sulaiman Al Salmi, Deputy Vice
Chancellor for Administrative & Financial Affairs, SQU, Dr. Sulaiman bin
Mohammed Al Balushi, Dean of the College of Education, and many experts in the field of Art Education. Dr. Fakhriya bin Khalfan Al Yahayee,
Head of Art Education Department, College of Education, said that the
gathering was a great opportunity to welcome the formers students and
experts to discuss art and benefit from their experience which would enrich
Art Education program offered by the Department.
The second alumni forum was held under the title ‘”Future Teacher: Reality and Challenges” to discuss the latest issues in preparing art education
teachers, give the opportunities to share the alumni’s experiences in the
real field, review and analysis them in order to achieve success and identify
the obstacles. The forum was aimed at building links between the college
and the its alumni, gather their views on art education teacher preparation program, and the obstacle faced by graduates in order to improve the
program. The forum included two main sessions: participation of specialists from the Department of Art Education and discussion of several topics
including teaching graphic design, sculpture , and modern developments
in the field of training for fine arts teachers. The second session discussed
papers of supervisors from the Ministry of Education, dealt with many topics, ceramic, reality and challenges of the profession in fine arts, recent
trends of fine arts, and creative solutions for fine arts.
SQU, Ministry Joint
Committee Meets
The Joint Committee between the SQU and the Ministry of Social Development held the 1st meeting for the year 2015 under the chair of
H.E. Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bimani, SQU Vice Chancellor and H.E. Dr.
Yahya bin Badr Al Ma’awali, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Social
Development. The meeting reviewed a follow up report on activating
the recommendations made at the previous meetings and evaluated
the efforts exerted by both sides to foster cooperation. The Committee also discussed areas of joint research cooperation between the two
sides and proposed research projects. It also discussed the SQU participation in the Sultanate’s marking the Omani Woman’s Day this
year as part of the activities organized to celebrate Nizwa, the capital
of Islamic Culture.
Meanwhile, the joint Meeting Between the Ministry of Manpower
and SQU held its third meeting at the Ministry ‘s headquarters under
the chair of H.E. Dr. Muna bint Salim Al Jardaniyah, Undersecretary
of the Ministry of Manpower for Technical Education and Vocational
Training and H.E. Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bimani, SQU Vice-Chancellor.
The meeting discussed a summary of the decisions taken at the previous meeting and their implementation. It also discussed a proposal
that allows graduates of the vocational diploma to pursue their studies at SQU. It discussed the possibility of offering PhD program for
employees at the Colleges of Technology, who are holders of degrees
from SQU. The meeting also discussed the financing of joint researches between the Ministry of Manpower and SQU.
Irish University Keen to Establish Ties
lagher (Applied Chemistry), and Prof. Brian Kelleher (Environmental &
Soil Sciences). Commenting on the outcome of their visit, Prof. O’Connor
said that they hope to promote research collaboration between DCU and
SQU. “This would include visits by staff and students between the Universities. DCU researchers have a particular interest in environmental, water
and soil research and we see good synergies between our two Universities
and countries”.
A multidisciplinary research team from the Dublin City University
(DCU) visited Sultan Qaboos University with a view to enhance ties between the two institutions through collaborative research and student,
and faculty exchanges. In this regard, the Irish researchers met officials
of the Office of International Relations at SQU, delivered a seminar at
the College of Agricultural & Marine Sciences, and held face to face discussions with faculty members from different specializations.
The DCU delegation was made up of Prof. Brendan O’Connor (Biotechnology), Prof. Dermot Walls (Genetics & Cell Biology), Prof. John Gal10 May 2015
During the meetings with SQU, DCU scientists, the possibility of graduate
students exchanging for shorter periods of time with specific projects goals
was identified as a mechanism for promoting collaboration and establishing research links. “ I think we have very strong potential connections in
the environmental and food areas. Water, soil and food research is very
important to both our Universities and is a major strategic national importance to both our countries. Having meet and talked with faculty members
of CAMS, we identified several areas of potential research collaboration.
These were particularly in the areas of water soil and food analysis”, Prof.
O’Connor said.
According to Prof. O’Connor , the potential synergies between the two
Water Institutes at DCU and SQU seemed very promising. The visit and
talks were facilitated by Dr. Mushtaque Ahmed, Associate Professor in the
Department of Soils, Water & Agricultural Engineering at SQU.
Coping with a
Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Dr. Mohammed Al-Azri
Medical Researchers from SQU, led by Dr. Mohammed Al-Azri, Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine & Public Health,
recently conducted a study to identify coping strategies experienced by
Omani women after breast cancer diagnosis. Individual semi-structured
interviews were conducted with 19 Muslim women diagnosed with
breast cancer. Several coping strategies were identified including denial,
optimism, withdrawal, Islamic beliefs and practices, and the support of
family members and health-care providers, but Islamic beliefs and practices were the commonest. The researchers recommend that health-care
professionals should be aware of and respect women’s coping strategies
and encourage them to use to reduce the psychological symptoms. They
should also make family members and friends aware of their role in
supporting and encouraging coping strategies.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Al Azri said: “Women in our study
identified five main strategies, which helped them to cope with a
breast cancer diagnosis, including denial, optimism, withdrawal,
religious beliefs and practices, and support of family members
and healthcare providers. Some women in our study had a denial phase after confirmation of their diagnosis. Denial, rather
than confrontation, as a coping response has been found to
be effective in reducing the short-term distress and anxiety experienced in the initial period of having a confirmed
diagnosis and hospitalization. Nonetheless, the tendency
toward denial among cancer patients could be a risk factor for several negative effects, such as delay in seeking
help from doctors, not attending for follow-ups, and
poor compliance with medication”.
Denial could also have a negative effect on the doctor–
patient relationship. Many women in this study invoked
the concept of “Subhan’Allāh,” which means “Glory be to
God” to indicate first their shock and surprise at the bad
news, but eventually they accepted “the will of God.” One
of the six articles of faith in the Muslim religion is “fatalism,”
which is to believe that all events, whether good or bad, are
an integral part of God’s will.
Dr. Al Azri said that some women in this study were optimistic
or used positive thinking to cope with their diagnosis. “Women in
our study appeared to have a strong religious faith. It is possible that
this contributed to their acceptance of their cancer as a “test” given
by “God” and was “God’s wish.Religion usually offers positive
meaning and answers to fundamental existential questions about
life and death and provides a positive sense of meaning, and
therefore, it has been the most frequent coping response used
among cancer patients. Some women, who “trusted God”
about the course of their illness, perceived that they became stronger believers in an after-life concept, less
afraid of death, and their perceived quality of life
increased. They also reported higher levels of
posttraumatic growth, such as relationship with
others, new possibilities, appreciation of life,
spirituality, and personal strength”, he said.
Women in this study also followed their religious beliefs and practices (listing and reciting
of the Holy Book the “Qur’an,” praying, and reciting religious
words); they believed that the stronger their faith in Allah (God),
the greater the chance of a cure from breast cancer. In the “Hadith”
of what Prophet Muhammad said that “there is a cure for every
condition except old age”; hence, many women were closely attached and followed religious beliefs and practices to decrease
their anxiety and threats of the consequences of breast cancer
diagnosis. Social support from both family members and friends
helps to decrease the negative effects of distress, anxiety, and the
side effects of treatment. Indeed, sharing concerns and experiences with other women with breast cancer, including expressing
of positive emotions online support group, reduced their sense of
isolation and alienation, they became less distressed psychologically, and their quality of life improved.
The study results show that Arabian women diagnosed with
breast cancer were enormously attached to their faith, spirituality,
and Muslims’ religious beliefs in coping with a breast cancer diagnosis; they appreciated health-care providers for being explicit
and supportive. Thus, health-care providers should show an interest by listening attentively to patients’ views about spiritual
and religious matters. Health-care providers should also be aware
and respect women’s spiritual and religious needs and beliefs, including beliefs concerning God’s will.
In addition, health-care providers should consider supporting women during challenging times (e.g. breaking bad news, side effects of treatment, and end
of life) to improve the emotional and psychosocial aspects of their life and decrease their
psychological morbidity. Indeed, healthcare providers should encourage women
to use their religion and spirituality for
coping, for their benefit. For example,
increase in prayer, mosque attendance,
reading from the Holy Qur’an, reciting religious words, and speaking to
religious leaders could give a feeling
of inner peace, decrease anxiety, depression, discomfort, and a sense of
“Many women appreciated the emotional support provided by their family members and friends during the
most difficult times. Thus, educating
and making family members, and if possible friends, aware of providing psychological support could also help to decrease
psychological morbidities. Indeed, women
expressed the view that sharing their experiences with other women diagnosed with breast
cancer made them feel stronger and strengthened
their acceptance of their diagnosis and treatment.
Encouraging group involvement to share coping experiences was an important factor that
contributed to the patients’ improved psychological well-being and could have a
long-term effect in reducing women’s
anxiety and depression”. Dr. Al Azri
concluded. Huda Al-Awisi, Samira
Al-Rasbi and Dr. Mansour AlMoundhri are the other researchers involved in this study. The
results of this study have been
published in the Journal of
Health Psychology (2014, Vol.
19(7) 836–846).
10 May 2015
Straight Talk
Horizon: What happened that resulted in you in arriving Oman
and SQU?
Dr. Hou: I attended 2nd Arab-American Frontiers of Science,
Dr. Lifang Hou
Dr. Lifang Hou is the Chief of Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention and Associate Professor
of Preventive Medicine, and the Co-Director
of International Relations at the Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, at the Feinberg School
of Medicine, Northwestern University.
Engineering, and Medicine symposium, Muscat, Oman, December 13-15, 2014. I have fallen in love with Oman, the environment, the people, the landscape, and the peace. Because of my
research interest in cancer diversity among different populations,
I explored the information on cancer trends in Oman. I have realized that the incidence of cancer in Oman is steadily increasing
with 35 percent more cases recorded in 2011 as compared to 2010.
As observed in many countries, Oman is challenged by the aging
population and increased cancer risks largely due to the lifestyle
changes. Oman has the second highest cancer incidence among
the GCC states. Two Most common cancers in Oman are Colorectal cancer in man and breast cancer in women. As a scientist
with research interest and experience in these two cancers, I am
interested in developing collaborations with faculty members in
SQU. During the conference, I met Dr. Mostafa Waly, Associate
Professor in the Department of Food Science & Nutrition at SQU,
and expressed my interest in collaborating with him on colorectal
cancer research.
Thus, the purpose of my visit to SQU is meet Dr. Mostafa Waly
and other faculty members to share with them my research interest, experience, and findings to establish possible collaborations
to conduct cancer research that is relevant to the cancer research
field as well as to Oman population, which ultimately contribute
to cancer prevention and treatment.
Horizon: Could you briefly explain the research profile of the
Lifang Lab at Northwestern?
Dr. Hou: My research focuses on identifying molecular bio-
markers that may predict cancer risk, progression, and mortality
in various populations, thus providing potential tools for early
cancer detection and prevention. Most recently, I have been conducting studies using cutting-edge, high-throughput technologies to examine the role of epigenetic biomarkers in the etiology
and prediction of cancer and chronic disease. I have collaborated
with researchers around the world to study populations within
and beyond the United States, including Africans, African Americans, Asians, Caucasians, and Latinos, and is currently expanding
my research to the Arabic populations as well. My research has
been funded by both the National Institutes of Health and the
National Science Foundation in the US. Horizon: Your lab is studying the environmental/lifestyle risk
factors and cancer risks. Do you think that there is scope for collaborative research with researchers at SQU?
Dr. Hou: Absolutely. During my visit to SQU, I met a number
of faculties, namely Professor Nejib Guizani, HOD at the Food
Science and Nutrition Department, CAMS. As well as Professor Mansour Al-Manthari & Dr. Yahya Al-Farsi at the College of
Medicine and Health Sciences. I was fascinated by their ongoing
research and was very pleased to find out that they share common research interest in the role of environmental exposure, for
example, pesticides exposure, and micronutrients deficiency, in
cancer development and mortality, and the possible underlying
mechanisms, such as epigenetic modifications.
Horizon: Could you please give an outline of the seminar that
you delivered at SQU?
Dr. Hou: In The seminar that I have delivered at the Food Science
and Nutrition Department, CAMS, SQU, I shared my research on
a novel molecular mechanism, epigenetic mechanism, as a possible biological link between environmental exposures or nutritional factors and cancer incidence and mortality risk. I hope my
research experience in USA can be applied in cancer research in
Oman by collaborating with SQU faculty members.
10 May 2015

You Don’t Miss the Water Until Your Falaj Runs Dry