Women of the UAE: Dr Rafeeya Pasha
ABU DHABI // In 1968, Dr Rafeeya Pasha flew into Abu Dhabi with only a herd of goats as fellow passengers.
Little would she know that such an inauspicious start would lead to the gynaecologist and obstetrician mingling with royalty and helping deliver some of their children.
Her journey began when she chanced upon an advert for a doctor’s job in the UAE in the classified section of a newspaper in her home country of Pakistan. Despite some opposition from her family, she applied and was chosen for the role.
“On my flight from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, I was the only passenger and I sat in a seat next to the pilot,” said Dr Pasha, 77.
“However, there was a herd of goats travelling with me and I could hear them bleat all the way to Abu Dhabi.”
She began working at the Central Hospital in Abu Dhabi. Soon afterwards, she was asked to go and work in Al Ain. The journey there took her six hours.
“I understood that I could not be afraid. Unless you take some calculated risks in life, you will not get anywhere,” she said.
While in Al Ain, she met Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the country, and his wife, Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak.
“The First Lady of the country was so kind, generous and humble and a true visionary,” she said.
“When I met Sheikh Zayed, he asked me about my family. I told him I had left my nine-month-old baby and husband behind in Pakistan and he said ‘in my country, it is not possible that a mother and child and a husband and wife are separated.’ He issued orders and within a week, my husband and child landed in Dubai,” she said.
Dr Pasha’s next challenge was to learn Arabic, so she sought the help of interpreters at the hospital.
“Gradually, I could speak Arabic fluently.”
Nowadays, the country’s health care system is renowned for its excellence, but back then, it was less advanced.
“We had to do the X-rays ourselves without any technicians,” she said. “Doctors would donate blood for patients if their blood group was compatible.”
She eventually resigned from the hospital in 1987 to join a private practice, where she worked until 1993.
Dr Pasha said she could not have had her career without the support of her husband.
“If were not for him, I would not have been able to do things I wanted to. We are like two wheels of a cart,” she said.
She has also managed to raise three accomplished children. Timour and Tahnoon both work in finance, while her third, Dua, is a lawyer.
Dr Pasha has since retired and devotes much of her time to charity work.
“My father told me ‘be a tree that bears fruit that is not useful only for itself, but for others as well’,” she said.
Dr Pasha and her friends help collect money to pay off the blood money debts of prisoners so they can go home.
She also helps pay for children’s education and organises fund-raising drives for victims of natural disasters.
As for her mantra for success, she puts it down to her work ethic.
“To achieve anything, you need to have patience. Set a goal and have conviction in it,” she said.
Updated: May 9, 2015 04:00 AM