SMHS Faculty Spotlight
SMHS Faculty Spotlight
CFE (Center for Faculty Excellence)

GW School of Medicine & Health Sciences Center for Faculty Excellence 

October 2022 Faculty Spotlight
Excellence in teaching & learning, scholarly endeavors, and leadership are all around us at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences. In an effort to highlight the amazing contributions of our faculty, the Center for Faculty Excellence would like to shine a spotlight on various faculty members and their continued success and excellence within medical and health education. Each month the CFE will highlight faculty members from across our GW SMHS community based on their current projects, research, and work.
Join the CFE as we highlight Dr. Maram Alkhatib and Dr. Zareen Zaidi for their American Medical Association funded project, “Unpacking the stranger: Xenophobic Experiences of Arab Women in Academic Medicine.” Maram and Zareen discuss their project, the importance of mentoring, and what keeps them motivated at work.
Dr. Maram Alkhatib, MD
Dr. Zareen Zaidi, MD, PhD


Maram Alkhatib, MD is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences. She is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and is licensed in the District of Columbia. Dr. Alkhatib's clinical experiences stem from training in Dublin and Galway, Ireland, as well as doing her Internal Medicine training at The George Washington University. She is an active clinician who has teaching experience and budding scholarly activity, including several local and international posters and presentations, which she will continue to build on during her tenure at the GW MFA.
Zareen Zaidi, MD, PhD is a Professor of Medicine at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences. She is an active clinician who has worked nationally & internationally in Medical Education for over 20 years. She has received the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation John A. Benson Jr., MD Professionalism Article Prize 2021, recognition via the Southern Group on Educational Affairs awards, and has served as the Association of American Medical Colleges Research in Medical Education (RIME) committee Chair. Her research has been recognized and supported by the Medical Education International Traveling Fellowship Award, granted by the Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME). Zareen has received both regional and national AAMC Medical Education Scholarship Research and Evaluation Grant (MESRE) grants and has published her work in all top peer-reviewed journals in the field of Medical Education, including Academic Medicine, Medical Education, Advances in Health Sciences Education, Teaching and Learning in Medicine and Perspectives on Medical Education. She serves on the editorial board of Teaching and Learning in Medicine and Perspectives on Medical Education. Her research focuses on issues related to power, race, and social justice.

Interview Q/A

Q: How long have each of you been at GWSMHS? What drew you to your current position?
Maram: I came to GW in 2012, first as an Internal Medicine resident and then I stayed on as a primary care physician. I transitioned to the academic practice in 2018. From there, I got involved with Practice of Medicine (POM) as an instructor and then became a Director in 2019. I was so drawn in by POM, I actually loved what they were teaching the medical students. I found that the preclinical medical students were so eager to learn and excited to be in medical school and they were happy it was fascinating! It reignited my passion for medicine and made me very excited to come to work every day.
Zareen: I just joined GW in February of this year, before that I worked at the University of Florida in Gainesville for almost 10 years. I was drawn to GW because of the shared interest and passion for medical education and scholarship. My niche area is medical education, research, and scholarship. So I enjoy implementing innovations, studying them, and generating scholarship.
Q: What are your major responsibilities here at GWSMHS (teaching- courses; research; service)?

Maram: Half of my time is dedicated to seeing my own patients and precepting resident clinic. I am also one of the directors for POM so I deal a lot with teaching, updating material, writing new sessions, etc.
Zareen: I practice primary care, and general internal medicine, so I see patients in our outpatient clinic. I also teach medical students. In terms of my medical education role, one of the tasks that I have is to mentor other faculty and promote medical education scholarship and research. I work with the SMHS Associate Dean for Assessment & Evaluation, Dr. Anthony Artino, and run the CHEERS Medical Education Research Consultation Service, where faculty can pitch an idea and get some input on how to improve the methodology of a project before they actually get started.
Q: You are a recent recipient of the 2022 Joan F. Giambalvo Fund for the Advancement of Women from the American Medical Association. Congratulations!  Can you please tell us more about your research project, “Unpacking the stranger: Xenophobic Experiences of Arab Women in Academic Medicine?” 

Maram: The idea came from a conversation Zareen and I had and it is a topic that hits close to home for us. I am an Arab physician who is an international medical graduate and the idea for this study came from the experience of international medical graduates (IMG), who come to a new country and have to navigate the academic setting, layered with being an immigrant and dealing with whole new experiences such as immigration policies and microaggressions. Our study aims to look into these intersectional issues, and overall investigate the impact of such power dynamics on Arab physicians in general. At the time we conceptualized this idea, we had colleagues at GW from various Arab countries that may have needed to seek asylum or had other issues related to immigration. So the idea really came about by looking at the whole experience and how it affects the physician and specifically for female physicians because that can be another added layer that comes with its own nuances as an Arab, female, IMG in academia. We found that sometimes the Arab experience can be overlooked in demographic questions, for instance, there is no check box when replying to your ethnicity that differentiates Arabs, so that alone can result in overlooked collective experiences of a group of people. Our goal is to look at the intersectionality of all these things to understand more clearly the Arab experience, and as a starting point look into the experiences of female Arab physicians.
Q: How did the two of you come together to work on this topic together?
Maram: Zareen & I met because I really wanted mentorship and specifically I was interested in going into medical education research and just didn't know where to start. Our division chief, Dr. Jillian Catalanotti has created some mentorship opportunities and through this, I was able to work with Zareen. We began by brainstorming about project ideas; what would work? what wouldn't work? When this topic came up it really grabbed our attention.
Maram: I've been interested in this topic for a while, particularly thinking back on all the policy changes that happened after the tragedy of 9/11 and how Arabs were portrayed, and still are viewed. Most recently the emergence of new immigration policies that had consequences for certain countries reminded me of that again. I always wonder how it affects other minority immigrants and not only from an immigration standpoint but also from a mental health perspective, morale perspective, and the decisions that one makes in life. 
Zareen: It was just wonderful having the opportunity to explore this area with Maram. As someone who mentors another faculty member, I like to try to explore their passion areas; what is their interest? What would they love to work on? And then see if we can build a project around that. In this particular case, Maram had her own lived experiences of being an Arab immigrant female physician, and for me also as a woman of color, I was particularly interested in this research.
Zareen: I am also particularly interested in this topic as one of my areas of research is around social justice issues, so this topic is dear to my heart. Overall when you look at the statistics for US academic institutions, minorities comprise only 4 percent of faculty positions nationally. Senior leadership positions such as dean or chair also lack diversity: 4 percent African Americans, 5 percent Asian Americans, and 5 percent Hispanic, and there are significant difficulties for these faculty to advance academically up the promotion ladder, and scholarship is a very important piece of that. So, I do wonder, for minority groups, for example, Arab IMG women, what kind of challenges do they face when they're trying to progress up the academic ladder? And when you look at the literature, there's not a whole lot on this topic. Well, it turns out that Arabs ethnicity-wise are often asked to check off the box for White so they're often categorized as White whereas they clearly are their own ethnic and cultural group.
Q: How did you go about finding funding for the project? What tips do you have for others looking for funding opportunities for medical education research projects?
Zareen: In terms of grant opportunities, our tip for everybody would be to make sure you're connected with the right organizations, so that you are subscribed to their listservs. The American Medical Association (AMA) is one of the big organizations that provide medical education grants. The other big one is the American Association for Medical Colleges (AAMC). So if you're interested in applying for a grant, go ahead and get yourself on their listservs because then automatically, you get grant announcements, and over time, you become more familiar with approximately when a call for proposals for different grants comes out. I was familiar with this particular AMA grant and I thought of Maram’s work and her interest. I also suggest subscribing to our GW research funding announcement list-serv: If you customize the type of grants you are looking for you will get regular emails.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about the current status of the project? What methodologies are you using? What are the next steps? 
Maram: We've been working on this project since April. It has GW IRB approval. It is a qualitative study that aims at interviewing faculty through semi-structured interviews. We hope to finish our interviews in the next few months and then do an analysis of those interviews, aiming to write up a paper to be published. Our inclusion criteria for this study are faculty who identify as female, Arab, and are international medical graduates. The grant has allowed us to expand this nationally beyond GW. We've been reaching out to individuals we know in leadership positions to spread the word around and various medical education listservs.    

Zareen: The timeline for completion is going to really depend on how fast our recruitment process goes. We have identified a manuscript submission opportunity and are targeting a specific journal.   

Zareen: Qualitative research is a whole different playing field and is very time intensive as it involves in-depth interviews. We hope to get anywhere between 20 to 25 participants and they're going to have a one hour long interview, which will be transcribed. Then we will upload it to a qualitative analysis database, which is called Dedoose, and will undertake a thematic analysis looking at key points that participants bring up. In this particular case, we're using a very interesting methodology called interpretive phenomenology or phenomenological analysis which will allow us to extract key lived experiences of participants to really get a sense of; what was it like when you came into this country as an immigrant? What were the challenges you faced? Did you face bias? We don't want to assume that they faced bias. If they did face bias, then what kind of biases and what were the challenges? For example, did you have a mentor? Did you have any challenges in terms of finding mentorship, or advancing with research and promotion and tenure? Another area that we're going to want to explore is this concept of ‘xenophobia’, which is slightly different from ‘racism’. Xenophobia really focuses on fear of the stranger in literal terms. So what kind of xenophobic experiences if any, did participants have because as you know, increasingly, not just in the US, but globally, there is an increased sense of nationalism in different countries, which can impact xenophobic behavior. We are really hoping to get some powerful stories through these interviews.

Q: What impact will your work have on students, faculty, SMHS, and/or health professions or science in general? 
Maram: My hope is that we kind of convey that this is a group of people that are often “not seen” and become invisible. So, giving visibility as well as allowing someone reading it from a similar background, to relate to it and others to learn from reading about these experiences. Ultimately, we would aim for possible policy changes. It really all depends on what comes out of the study at the end of the day and what our interviewee’s experiences are.

Zareen: We're hoping that the results will help with step one, creating awareness around an issue. We hope to really create awareness around this topic because this is something that's just not discussed so far in medicine. Once we create awareness we will probably identify some key problems, which at least for SMHS, will hopefully lead to some policy changes. For example, regarding the checkbox that I was describing earlier, should we add a checkbox in terms of race and ethnicity?  Or if we find that Arab women in academia face some particular issue, then we can bring it back to the Center for Faculty Excellence in terms of creating workshops or personal professional development in particular around these topics.

Q: Final Question. What is one thing that keeps you motivated during the day? Could be a song, podcast, quote, reading, or anything?
Maram: For me, it is my two girls. I have a four-year-old and a seven-year-old who definitely keep me motivated during the day.
Zareen: I think I'm at a stage in my career when I do a lot of mentoring work and when I come to work, there's a quote that comes to mind “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to set.” That's what I aim to do. You know when I'm mentoring, occasionally I will develop long-term partnerships and relationships over time. Occasionally, mentees go off in different directions, but I have the satisfaction that I planted a tree!   
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