From Saudi to Swansea – Friyal celebrates PhD success

Friyal Al-QahtaniIt was a special journey back to Swansea this week for Friyal Al-Qahtani, who returned from her home country of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to receive her PhD degree from Swansea University.

Friyal, aged 35, from Dammam in KSA, received her award today (Tuesday, January 27) at the University’s Winter Degree and Award Congregations held at the City and County of Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall.  Friyal’s husband, Dr Mohammed Al Dossary, travelled with her to joinher at the Congregation for the College of Human and Health Sciences to mark her achievement.

Friyal, who is also an MSc graduate of the University’s College of Human and Health Sciences, completed her MSc Health Public Health and Health Promotion in 2009.   

It was during her MSc studies she developed an appetite for research in order to inform her role as a lecturer in Nursing in KSA. Friyal then chose to pursue a PhD, also at the College of Human and Health Sciences, and gained a scholarship from the KSA government to do so. 

Professor Deborah Fitzsimmons, Academic Director of the Swansea Centre for Health Economics in the College of Human and Health Sciences and one of Friyal’s PhD supervisors, said: “Friyal chose a challenging health topic to research for her PhD, focused on improving knowledge skills and attitudes of nursing students in KSA to the care of patients with Hepatitis B and C, through delivery of an educational programme. 

“She set up an ambitious mixed-methods study, using a randomised controlled trial and qualitative interviews to establish the effectiveness of her programme.”

Friyal began her research studies in 2009 and following maternity leave to have her first son, she returned to Swansea to continue her studies.  And after Friyal had her second son, she again returned to Swansea to continue her studies, all while juggling a young family.

Dr Jayne Cutter, Senior Lecturer and one of Friyal’s PhD supervisors, said: “Friyal dealt with research challenges with aplomb – from gaining access from her home University to conduct the study, through to the challenges of recruiting students to take part. 

“Her tenacity, passion, and commitment to her research shone throughout, even when facing the difficulties associated with completing a full-time PhD – and not least with a young family to support at the same time.” 

Friyal submitted her PhD, entitled ‘The impact of a structured education package on student nurses' knowledge attitudes and reported practice regarding HBV/HCV transmission and standard precautions at a nursing College in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’, in May 2014 and her viva (thesis defence) took place in July 2014.

“Friyal’s viva performance was outstanding,” added Dr Cutter. “Her examiners commented on the high quality of her work and commitment to change nursing education and practice.

“Friyal was awarded a PhD with no corrections – a rare occurrence. She also impressed her internal examiner, Dr Ruth Davies, with her in depth answers to every question, her passion about the topic and her confidence.”

Friyal returned home to KSA after completing her PhD, to return to her role as an assistant professor for undergraduate and postgraduate students, and also as head of community health nursing department, chairperson of accreditation area 11 and head of community services department at the College of Nursing, University of Dammam, in KSA.

Professor Deborah Fitzsimmons added: “We already know that Friyal is making a difference to nursing education through her research-led, practice driven approach which she championed throughout her PhD and continues into her post-doctoral career. 

“We have no doubt Friyal will be instrumental in developing nurse education in KSA and Dr Jayne Cutter and I are privileged to have been her supervisors.”