Emiratis should look closer to home for hospital treatment, 3D printing surgeon says

Dr John Devine has only done five reconstructive operations using expensive 3D printing technology because most patients still opt to go abroad, even though the facilities are here in the UAE.

Dr John Devine does not understand why Emiratis travel abroad for medical treatment when they have the expertise and technology available in the UAE. He recently used 3-D printing to help rebuild the jaw of a young patient. Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // Surgeon John Devine cannot understand why Emiratis are still choosing to travel overseas for surgery, given the level of expertise and technology available here.

Dr Devine recently used 3-D printing technology to rebuild the jaw of a young woman who had a tumour.

The maxillofacial, head and neck surgeon at Seha’s Mafraq Hospital has performed only five such operations because most patients opt to go abroad for treatment.

“I don’t know why,” Dr Devine says. “The standard of the unit here is as high as anywhere in the world. Everything can be done here in the UAE. We have the latest technology and the best expertise.

“We can honestly say we have the best standards, whether it is post-operative care or intensive care or nursing.”

His latest patient, Nouf, had to have the right side of her jaw removed. He rebuilt it using the most advanced technology available.

Mafraq is the only hospital in Abu Dhabi to use 3-D printing, which it has applied to reconstructive surgery for more than two years.

Bone was taken from Nouf’s leg, broken and then rebuilt for her jaw, with a 3-D print used for the specifications.

“When you have a tumour that was removed from the face or neck, you have to rebuild primarily for function and quality and appearance,” Dr Devine says.

Nouf’s father says he did not consider taking his daughter, one of his eight children, overseas for the operation.

“When they told me that my daughter had a large tumour and they had to remove her jaw, we were shocked,” he says.

“Every Emirati’s first thought is to travel for treatment. All my friends and family told me to take Nouf abroad.

“But I asked doctors and they told me that Dr John was an expert and one of the best surgeons in the world, so why do I need to go abroad if the best doctor is here?

“I’ll listen to doctors when it comes to treatment options, not to family and friends.

“A part of treatment, I believe, is psychological. When Nouf was in the hospital, her mother and her entire family was by her side. Her friends came and we were all around her.

“When you are abroad, you have one or two people at the most, you don’t know the culture or language and are alone. It’s very depressing and lonely.

“Our country has offered us everything and yet we insist on going abroad. It’s unnecessary and a waste of money.”

Nouf, 20, was released from hospital last week and is ready to resume her studies.

“My friends came to visit me in the hospital and didn’t know the difference,” she says. “They didn’t know which was my real jaw and which was my fake jaw.”