x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

UAE link with DC hospital helps everyone

A link between a top US hospital and the UAE is helping both countries, with the UAE finding its philanthropy being repaid in children's lives.

At first blush, the $150 million (Dh 550.5m) donation to create the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC might seem like just another act of international philanthropy commemorating the name and, more importantly, the philosophy of the UAE’s founding father.

Sheikh Zayed’s name, after all, can be found all around the world on schools, bridges, hospitals, lecture halls, airports, streets and mosques as part of the UAE’s commitment to share its wealth with those less fortunate. Just this week, the country was lauded for being the world’s biggest aid donor per head of population.

However the 2009 donation that set up the institute differed from other such acts by having a greater degree of reciprocal benefit. As one of the world’s premier paediatric care facilities, hundreds of young Emiratis have been sent to Children’s National in the last 20 years because it represents the highest standards of care.

Closer relations between the hospital and the Health Authority – Abu Dhabi have been credited for helping improve what were then high ­infant mortality rates in the UAE to the point where a child is now more likely to survive if born in the Emirates than in the US. In consultation with the hospital, Abu Dhabi began to test all newborns in the emirate for congenital heart defects, a move identified as having saved 23 ­babies’ lives out of more than 50,000 tested.

Potentially one of the most beneficial aspects of this close working relationship is the internship programme in which young Emirati doctors will be mentored by some of the best physicians and surgeons in the world, raising the prospect of bringing that knowledge back to the UAE. The topics being taught go beyond just paediatrics and include innovative management.

The result for the UAE will be a more highly skilled medical sphere, aiding the country’s goal to become a destination for medical tourism by establishing it as the region’s centre of excellence. For parents of sick children, it means they can obtain world-class care while staying where they ought to be – close to home, with the support of their wider families around them and making what for anyone is a scary process just a little less intimidating. Sheikh Zayed would approve.