x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 October 2017

UAE Portrait of a Nation: Tamara’s crusade against pain and pills

Curing people’s aches and pains and their dependence on pills and prescriptions has been Tamara Ghazi’s goal since she was young.

Tamara Ghazi is the owner of the Diversified Integrated Sports Clinic. Anna Nielsen for The National
Tamara Ghazi is the owner of the Diversified Integrated Sports Clinic. Anna Nielsen for The National

DUBAI // Relieving people’s aches and pains and eliminating their dependence on pills and prescriptions has been Tamara Ghazi’s goal since she was a child.

Her uncle, Sabah Ghazi, was Abu Dhabi’s first rheumatologist and it was her family’s problems with arthritis that drove her to seek solutions to help make people’s lives free of pain.

A year ago Ms Ghazi, 30, set up a preventive medical centre offering everything from chiropractic to physiotherapy, nutrition advice and acupuncture in an effort to provide UAE residents with alternatives to what she calls a “pharmaceutical-driven approach to medicine”.

“People would fly abroad for treatment before, and even now we’re still trying to overcome that reputation. Health care here was always the last option for people, but things have come a long way from where they were,” she says.

Born and bred in Abu Dhabi, she remembers “a lack of awareness and information” about health care.

Her parents met when her Iraqi father was the general manager of Emirates Insurance and her Palestinian mother was working as an executive assistant at Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

“Life was so much more stable in the UAE than it had been for them,” says Ms Ghazi, adding that the capital was then a quiet place to live.

“There really was nothing here when I was growing up. Weekends were parks and the beach. It was a real struggle for our parents to entertain us, so there were a lot of family gatherings,” she says. “I remember the first mall opening, the first cinema and the first high-rise building going up. When the first Burger King opened, even that was exciting for people.”

The lifestyles then were generally unhealthy and inactive, with people poorly informed, she says, although that has changed significantly.

Ms Ghazi’s life changed when she moved to California at 21 to study chiropractic medicine.

“It took me going to California to get active because there just wasn’t anything really, other than football, swimming and running, but then I went to study in California and all my friends were active. They were all doing things like triathlons, everyone ran and everybody ate whole and holistic foods,” she says. “Back in Abu Dhabi, our food options were very limited because there was no local produce, no farmers’ markets or organic stores like we have today. I would’ve been a different person today if I had started this active life I have today as a kid.”

Many of the people she grew up with remain inactive.

“A lot of the people I grew up with are still like this. Maybe 5 per cent of them value health and fitness. They just weren’t exposed to it,” Ms Ghazi says.

“For me, moving to California was a big wake-up call. It was one of the best things I could have done, even though I would have preferred to have had the educational options to stay here and be with my family.”

To leave home for studies abroad was not easy, says Ms Ghazi, who runs the Diversified Integrated Sports Clinic in Dubai. “You leave the safe bubble of the UAE and everything there is different when you are by yourself.”

She hopes her clinic can play a role in introducing UAE residents to drug-free forms of pain relief and management.

mswan@thenational.ae