Mayor Bloomberg: UAE’s impact much larger than its size

UAE's $50 million gift is believed to be the largest yet for a stroke-specific initiative

UAE ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, second from right, and Michael Bloomberg, former New York mayor, second from left
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The UAE ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba and three-term former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg on Thursday announced the launch of the Sheikh Khalifa Stroke Institute at Johns Hopkins hospitals in Baltimore and Abu Dhabi.

The institute is the latest venture in growing healthcare co-operation between the two countries and is named after the President, Sheikh Khalifa.

"That legacy of medical advancement continues today, as we join together to launch the Sheikh Khalifa Stroke Institute," Mr Al Otaiba said at an event held at the permanent mission of the UAE to the United Nations in New York.

Mayor Bloomberg told The National after the event, that while the UAE “is a small country it has an impact much larger than its size and this center is an evidence to that.”

Asked about the “sin tax” that UAE imposed last fall on tobacco, soda and energy drinks, Mr Bloomberg who took similar measures in New York as mayor in 2013, said “anything the government can do to sway young people from smoking and becoming obese is a very good move.” “It shows the government actually cares, despite it being a difficult political decision to do, it certainly saves lives.”

Ambassador Otaiba speaking to The National emphasised the centrality of healthcare in UAE government’s planning. He said “outside national security issues, healthcare is our next primary focus, as foundation for a healthy society.” Mr Otaiba said the multiple healthcare partnerships between UAE and leading US institutions are driven by a “joint vision and strategic alignment.”

The Sheikh Khalifa Stroke Institute will open this spring.

The initiative amounts to a $50 million gift from UAE to Johns Hopkins Institutes, believed to be the largest yet for a stroke-specific initiative. The objective is to advance the application of engineering, artificial intelligence and precision medicine to better diagnose, treat and restore function in stroke patients.

Mr Al Otaiba said the institute was "especially meaningful" for the UAE, where someone suffers a stroke every hour and up to 10,000 strokes are recorded each year, according to recent data. Fifty per cent of all stroke patients in the UAE are below the age of 45.

In the United States, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, strokes occur at a rate of one every 40 seconds, with more than 795,000 cases per year.

“This new institute will not only generate better outcomes for stroke patients in the UAE and the US but will also strengthen opportunities for collaboration between UAE and US scientists and researchers,” Mr Al Otaiba said.

The director of the newly founded institute, Justin McArthur, a professor and director of neurology at Hopkins, raised the challenges posed by standard clinical approaches to recovery and treatment in stroke patients. “With this support from the UAE, we will be able to really bring stroke research and patient care to a new level,” he said.

Paul Rothman, chief executive of Johns Hopkins Medicine, said the new institute was expected to help millions of stroke patients and lower the treatment cost.

Marcelle Wahba, former US ambassador to the UAE and president of the Arab Gulf States Institute, told The National: "The generous announcement today is in line with the UAE's many philanthropic initiatives focusing on improving medical research, such as the Sheikh Zayed Institute at Children's National Medical Center in Washington."

The past two decades have seen a major expansion in US-UAE partnerships in healthcare and medical innovation, with the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins and the Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation all operating in or in partnership with the UAE.

According to a recent report by the UAE-US business council, the UAE's healthcare sector has expanded dramatically over the past four decades. "At the time of the UAE's founding in 1971, the country had just seven hospitals and 12 health centres. As of 2015, according to the latest figures from the UAE statistics authority, the country had 126 public and private hospitals," the report said.