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Wed 21 May 2008 04:00 AM

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Class of their own

Harvard Medical School Dubai Center and Dubai Healthcare City recently hosted the second annual Tamayoz Awards.

Harvard Medical School Dubai Center and Dubai Healthcare City recently hosted the second annual Tamayoz Awards, to recognise the rising stars of the region's healthcare sector. Medical Times catches up with the industry's brightest lights and hears how, in the Middle East, who cares wins.

What significant advances do you expect to see in your field in the upcoming years?

It is anticipated that the prenatal diagnosis (PND) programme will eventually have tremendous positive implications for the future generations, as it will prevent the birth of thalassemic babies.

The implementation of a successful PND programme has reduced the cost of patient treatment and clinical management drastically.

And furthermore, it is exerting considerable long-term positive social, psychological and socio-economic consequences on the entire UAE population.

As PND programmes have already been in place since 2005 in the UAE, my ambition now is to set up the latest techniques by replacing invasive prenatal diagnoses with non-invasive techniques as soon as we can.

For the first time in this region, we can offer this service to people who suffer from this common genetic disorder.

How will the field of genetics impact on the industry?

The fields of genetics and genomics are rapidly evolving and the practice of medicine can no longer afford to stay away from these developments. We're already seeing a paradigm shift to individualised medicine.

Healthcare professionals in the region, and all over the world, are facing the biggest challenge of their career in adapting to this new concept. But this new area of medicine is so promising that it's worth the effort.

The shift to a preventive model of healthcare, thanks to the exciting developments in our understanding of the relationship between genes and diseases, will leave no choice to the industry but change.Strategic planning will have to assume that this is where medicine is headed and resources should be allocated accordingly.

How is healthcare in Saudi Arabia developing?

Saudi Arabia is struggling with having enough professionals, but it is also finding it difficult to integrate different institutions that are trying to attain the same goals with few resources.

The training of physicians is still lagging behind and there are no clear plans to improve it. We need to convince different health systems in the area to collaborate rather than to compete.

Another challenge is increasing the level of awareness among the public for their health. We need to make health a priority politically.

There are two main issues that will affect the industry. Firstly, keeping up with the advancement of technology will be very expensive.

Secondly, the transformation into a private healthcare system supported by insurance will be a big change. How the government deals with these issues will have a big affect on our future.

What is the biggest challenge for healthcare professionals in the region?

The biggest challenge that we face is the apparent lack of trust in healthcare in this part of the world. A lot of patients seek medical care in the west and also in places like India and Thailand.

To get them to believe in the medical system here, and for them to trust the fact that we have well qualified and trained healthcare professionals who are more than capable of taking care of all their healthcare needs, is a big challenge that we as a group need to address.

The attitude is changing, albeit slowly.

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