Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

Proud Emirati medical students aim to change perception of profession

Five students from Fatima College of Health Sciences will take part in a training programme in the United States

Amira Alkaabi, Mariam Al Bloshi, Mariam Al Shamsi, Shamsa Al Ameri and Jawaher Alalawi are jetting off to America to widen their medical knowledge. Victor Besa/The National
Amira Alkaabi, Mariam Al Bloshi, Mariam Al Shamsi, Shamsa Al Ameri and Jawaher Alalawi are jetting off to America to widen their medical knowledge. Victor Besa/The National

A group of Emirati medics are on a mission to challenge misconceptions about their profession in the UAE - as they prepare to sharpen up their skills in the United States.

Five graduates and students from Fatima College of Health Sciences will put their knowledge to the test during an intensive two-week training course in the US state of Pennsylvania, which gets under way on July 15.

They will receive valuable experience at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania as part of a major drive to increase numbers of Emiratis in the health sector.

The Future Medical Stars initiative is being led by the college, which has campuses in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi and Ajman, in partnership with VPS Healthcare and Al Bayt Mitwahid Association, a not-for-profit community organisation.

Amira Alkaabi, 21, a nursing graduate from Fatima College, said the role of nurses is often "misunderstood" in the Emirates.

"Nursing is my passion. My mother supported me but not the rest of my family," she said.

"They thought that because it involved cleaning patients it wasn’t a high class job. But if I don’t do it, who will? There are people in need and I might be in their place one day.

“Nursing is misunderstood in our community. It is not just about giving an injection or taking someone's blood pressure. It is an art, a skill, and a humanitarian job. We have studied for four years and have a great deal of knowledge.”

Each of the five chosen participants will have a mentor during their stay in the States and will follow programmes tailor-made to fit their skills.

Emirati radiology students Shamsa Al Ameri, 34 and Mariam Al Shamsi, 24, are also proud to be leading the charge for UAE citizens in the profession.

“There are few Emirati technicians and we chose this profession specifically for that reason," said Ms Al Ameri.

"Many Emirati women are uncomfortable with a male expatriate technician taking their scan. We are the daughters of this nation, why shouldn't we serve it and serve our people?"

Ms Al Shamsi said she had been met with skepticism over her career path, but the support of patients made it worth while.

“I had a patient stop me and ask me why I was doing this because of the radiation exposure,” she said.

“But when we see how happy the patients are, particularly the elderly women, it makes us even happier.”

Pharmacology graduate Mariam Al Bloshi also received little support from family and hopes to change perceptions.

“My husband supported me but my family didn’t really encourage me and would have preferred that I go into another profession," she said.

"Their opinion of pharmacists is that they only dispense medication but pharmacists are like doctors and if not more important.

"The entire medical team needs to consult the pharmacist before prescribing medication and setting a treatment plan for the patient. It is an important profession,” she said.

Abdullah Al Neyadi, A board member of Al Bayt Mitwahid Association, said he is delighted to be supporting efforts to increase Emirati representation in the sector.

"Alongside our dedicated partners VPS Healthcare and Fatima College, we strive to provide high performing students with the opportunity to excel in the medical field, with the objective of achieving the UAE’s 2030 vision of increasing the number of Emirati medical professionals to 10,000.”

Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, chairman and managing director of VPS Healthcare, said Emiratis have a critical role to play in the growth of the health care in the country.

Updated: July 2, 2019 06:05 PM

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