I have spent the last week in Oman as the guest of Oman Medical College. The country is one of contrast – the new intermixed with the very old. Here, tradition meets modern convenience and high-end cars. Oman is a land that is changing and in many ways, it reminds me of West Virginia.

There is great tradition that is based on culture and religion. Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said is the ruler and is celebrated every day by the people of Oman. The country has some of the same challenges that West Virginia does – a changing economy (oil prices are at almost historic lows) and health care challenges, as western fast food has invaded Oman.

Obesity, diabetes and other well-known chronic diseases are occurring in Oman as they do here at home.

The average life-span has increased dramatically in Oman, reflecting the commitment of the Sultan and the Ministry of Health to implement modern public health approaches to immunization and to treat infectious diseases that were previously leading causes of death for Oman’s citizens.

With the shortage in doctors to care for the citizens of Oman, the infrastructure to provide technology-assisted medicine to Oman’s citizens is evolving.  Moreover, considering additional models of care like using advanced practice professionals is not part of the planning at this time. These are areas we can help Oman.

Thus, the current plan is to train more physicians. Only Oman Medical College and Sultan Qaboos University have medical schools.

In talking to the Minister of Health and the leadership of the Medical Specialty Board of Oman, it became clear that an area of great strength for Oman is the culture and the community of their people.

My meeting with Dr. Hilal Ali Hilal Al-Sabti of Oman's Medical Specialty Board

It is amazing and is an opportunity for us to learn from them.

When almost anyone from Oman sees another, they offer warm greetings. People are familiar with each other. There is a grand sense of community and in talking with people from Oman, they appreciate this part of their lives.

It has been recently shown in a seven-decade-long longevity study from Harvard that connection to other people is a key to a long life.

Connectedness to each other, to the country of Oman and to religion. These powerful human relationships and community are characteristic of Oman’s people.

Connection to purpose and people is a key for a long and successful life. For us in West Virginia, our connection to Oman may allow us to consider more foundational approaches to help the health of our state.

Creating trust and creating community - just like I am finding in Oman.