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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Billionaire UAE doctor funds health dreams for high school students

VPS Healthcare boss Shamsheer Vayalil was supposed to pick a winner in a health scheme competition, but decided to support all six finalists

Shamsheer Vayalil, managing director of VPS Healthcare. Leslie Pableo for The National 
Shamsheer Vayalil, managing director of VPS Healthcare. Leslie Pableo for The National 

An Abu Dhabi schoolboy's dream to help his brother's battle with epilepsy could become a reality - thanks to the support of a billionaire health boss.

Ahmed Al Romaithi, who is 15, has come up with an idea for a technology that would alert parents or caregivers if a child is having a seizure.

It is a cause close to the heart of the youngster, whose brother suffers from epilepsy.

“He would have a seizure in the middle of the night and we wouldn’t know about it,” he said.

The bid is set to get off the ground thanks to the support of VPS Healthcare, which has set up a million-dirham fund to support six healthcare projects developed by Emirati high school students.

Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, the founder and managing director of VPS Healthcare, was so impressed with the schemes of the six finalists in the competition, including that of Al Romaithi, he decided to fund all of them.

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Last October, a competition was launched for the best healthcare business plan in a partnership between the Abu Dhabi's Al Bayt Mitwahid Association and VPS healthcare. From 22 teams of over 100 Emirati high school students, six teams of 22 students made it to the finals. But there was to be no winner.

“While listening to the business plans presented by the students, Dr Shamsheer Vayalil was so impressed that he got up and said, 'I know I have to select one winner, but I want to fund all of your projects',” a VPS spokesperson said.

The cash will be used to set up business incubators for all of the projects. Business incubators are used to help fledgling companies or projects to develop by providing services such as management training and office space, offering the tools to put a plan into practice.

The students will also get the opportunity to visit The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania for a two-week intensive summer experience at The Global Young Leaders Academy (GYLA). The academy will give students a taste of accounting, marketing, management and finance. Students are required to develop a team-based business plan at the end.

The cost of the programme, Dh18,770, is being covered by Medeor 24x7 Hospital.

“We want to be a part of the community and help develop key opinion leaders from the younger generation to lead the evolution of the UAE healthcare industry,” says Dr. Arun Menon, Al Ain regional director of VPS Healthcare.

“Healthcare is not only about doctors and nurses. This business plan competition is a great platform for students to learn about the healthcare industry and make informed choices about their careers in the healthcare sector. We are truly amazed by the enthusiasm of the students and we are gearing up for much larger participation for this year’s competition,” Dr Menon said.

The students will go on their American journey from July 21 to August 4.

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The competition is all part of a bid to encourage more Emiratis to get involved in the health profession.

“Very few Emiratis are in healthcare and clearly that is a challenge. The reason, according to studies, are cultural as far as nurses are concerned because it isn’t seen as a prestigious profession and it can take up to 14 years of education [to qualify]. Lastly, they don’t see too many people like themselves in healthcare so that mentorship and role models isn’t there,” the VPS spokesperson said.

Last year's competition was a pilot programme, and there will be another version of the competition this year, open to all Emiratis across the UAE.

Abdulla Al Neyadi, chairman of Al Bayt Mitwahid’s executive committee, said that VPS is their first health partner. “Our main aim is to encourage Emirati students to join the healthcare sector and make them aware that joining this sector is not only about being a doctor, but there are many other professions, such as lab technician, radiologist, nurses, and so on.

“Im sure you rarely see Emirati lab technicians,” he said. According to the latest statistics there are only 124 female Emirati nurses out of more than 7,000 nurses in SEHA hospitals and only one Emirati male nurse.

“Ultimately this is a project that would benefit the private sector and the government,” he said.