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Tracing the leadership pipeline from Mason Nursing to Oman's health institutes

March 5, 2018   /   by Buzz McClain

Kevin Mallinson (left), assistant dean of Mason's School of Nursing, with PhD student Abdullah Al Mahrouqi. Photo by Ron Aira.

Of the nine nursing institutes in Oman, four of them are led by graduates of George Mason University—three are deans and one as a director. There soon will be a fifth.

“Forty years ago, Oman had one hospital and 20 beds. Now there are 60 health care facilities in Oman,” said Kevin Mallinson, assistant dean for PhD and research programs and an associate professor in Mason’s School of Nursing. “George Mason has had a big impact on Oman wherever in the country they serve.”

The path to helping modernize public health care in Oman started at Mason in the early 1990s, when the then dean of the College of Health and Human Services, Rita Carty, met with the Omani Minister of Health at a World Health Organization conference in Geneva. She convinced him to send a few high school graduates to study at Mason’s School of Nursing. Those graduates, she suggested, would return equipped to provide leadership in Oman’s academic nursing institutes.

At the time, Oman was on the verge of a renaissance, said Mason alumnus Khamis Al Mezeini, as Sultan Qaboos Said Al Said recognized that education was key to reducing his country’s chronic illiteracy and improving its public health care system.

The Minister of Health, Ali Mohammad Mosa, chose four students—Abdallah Al Batashi, Juma Al-Maskari, Salim Al Toubi and Al Mezeini—who arrived at the Fairfax Campus to study for their bachelor of science nursing degrees in 1992. They graduated in 1996 and returned to Mason for their master’s degrees and education certificates in 1998.

“I like to call them the backbone of the nursing program in Oman,” said first-semester PhD student Abdullah Al Mahrouqi. When he completes his PhD program at Mason, Mahroqui, who is also a college professor, will become the fifth Mason graduate to lead an Omani nursing school.

“Once I started loving [nursing], it changed me,” he said. “That’s why I’m pursuing my PhD here, because I love nursing and I would like to give something back to nursing—teaching and community services.”

Al Mezeini, who earned his PhD at Mason in 2017, 21 years after he earned his bachelor’s degree, acknowledges Mason’s impact on him and his country.

“I believe that George Mason and the School of Nursing molded us to become who we are now,” said Mezeini, the dean of the Al Dhahira Nursing Institute, 175 miles east of the capital Muscat. “My country [has] developed rapidly and is now competing with developed countries in health affairs.”

Mahroqui said nursing lets people connect with the patient, that person’s family and everyone around them.

“You are not only serving one person; you are serving the whole community.”