Women of the UAE: Emirati doctor makes the impossible possible

Dr Ayesha Almemari was the first Emirati doctor to specialise in emergency medicine and has continued throughout her career to strive for academic and practical success.

Dr Ayesha Almemari, of Mafra Hospital in Abu Dhabi, is the first Emirati to specialise in emergency medicine. Ravindranath K / The National
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After travelling the world for her medical training, an Abu Dhabi physician is passing on the best practices she has learned abroad to improve the standards of UAE medical professionals and the level of care in the country.

ABU DHABI // If a person has a noble goal and seeks the right path with persistence, the impossible becomes possible, says Dr Ayesha Almemari, the first Emirati physician to specialise in emergency medicine.

After attending public schools in Al Nahda and Baniyas, the 37-year-old embarked on a trek that took her to Bahrain for medical school at Arabian Gulf University followed by emergency medicine and critical care training in Montreal, Canada.

She then completed a master’s degree in quality and safety in health care at Royal College Surgeons in Ireland-Dubai.

Aside from a busy work schedule, she is now in the process of completing a master’s in organ donation and transplant from the University of Barcelona.

For Dr Almemari, who works at Mafraq Hospital, “obstacles have no existence in my dictionary”.

“I did face challenges, however. As an optimistic, positive person I always viewed them as opportunities to experience life and to develop myself,” says the Abu Dhabi native.

“I do not shy away from picking up challenges and I put my foot down when needed. I am open to all life possibilities and believe that we are in this life to serve and make a difference.

“From all the challenges I experienced and the people I met, I learnt that life is not easy but it is enjoyable and that you get what you give.”

The influence of Dr Almemari is evident at Mafraq Hospital. In 2004, along with her colleagues, a mini triage with 10 beds was started in the emergency department to prioritise a patient’s treatment based on the severity of their condition.

“[We] insisted that every patient get triaged as soon as they came in. It was a basic process and hospital management then developed it after I had left to Canada in 2005,” she said.

“When I came back I was delighted to find that Mafraq emergency department had grown to 34 beds, and now we are about 50 beds and providing excellent emergency medicine services.”

Dr Almemari is also co-founder of the EMA-Mini Medical School, a programme to teach the public advance medical knowledge and skills that help them in their daily lives, and co-founder of Emirates Society of Emergency Medicine, a non-profit that brings together physicians and nurses working in emergency medicine.

“My dream is to develop our own UAE emergency medicine and critical-care standards that ensure affordability, equity and efficiency of care provided to all patients.”

Dr Almemari believes that the UAE is leading the region in empowering women with enabling regulations.

“We are blessed and privileged to say the least. [However], I think at the individual level and in the daily work environment women are still being underestimated and marginalised for reasons that I am still trying to scientifically understand,” she says, adding that she wants to help both men and women physicians develop their careers.

“I want them to learn to always say and do the right thing, to own emergency medicine and strive to develop it. I want them to be UAE soldiers in medicine and emergency medicine. Only then can our healthcare system be the best and only then our people will stop seeking treatment abroad.”

Dr Almemari credits her parents as her inspiration.

“My father believed that women are no less than men. He encouraged and supported me even when he was sick and dying in 2005,” she says.

“My mother, the classic Arabic, loving mother, showed us that she, too, has no limit. At age 53, she started school at grade 1, and this year she is in grade 7. She is competing with her grandchildren. Her final mark has never been below 92 per cent since she started.”