Mohamed started the Global MBA in 2016 at the Middle East Centre, graduating from the programme in December 2018. He is the Chair of Surgery and a Vascular Surgeon at Al Ain Hospital in Abu Dhabi, as well as an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester. You can learn more about Mohamed by checking his profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vascularsurgeon/ We spoke to him to find out how it has been like working at the frontline of this pandemic and how covid-19 has impacted him and the way of working at the hospital.
How is being in lockdown impacting you?
I have no doubt that everyone has been affected by this pandemic, but each person’s experience of lockdown will be different. My professional and personal life has changed in a way that I would have never imagined over the past 4 months. This pandemic has brought a unified grief of losing what we all took for granted. The Greek philosopher Epictetus said “he is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” If I rewind 4 months, this would have meant something completely different to now. For many, grieving for the loss of materialistic items was the norm and few would have actively rejoiced having good health. Yet, our way of life has changed and transformed with families split between continents and unable to travel and social gatherings have largely ceased. Certainly, I have witnessed many people who have simply received a negative Covid-19 test result rejoice their good health and those who are discharged from hospital having suffered a severe illness being grateful for their new found health. I’m grateful for online video communication as at least we can communicate and see our loved ones. Just imagine how this would have been 30 years ago in the earlier pandemics where internet and video communication didn’t exist. In my case, I have worried about my children who are in UK who showed all the symptoms of Covid-19 at university but thankfully recovered. My previous planned holidays to see them in April and June were obviously cancelled and I remain totally focussed in my job.
How has the current situation affected your work life?
Whilst the medical profession heard about the reality of an oncoming pandemic at the same time as the rest of the world, there was probably more anticipation of what was about to happen than that for the general public. Certainly, in my mind, the memory of SARS and MERS was still vivid but as a surgeon SARS and MERS didn’t alter our professional life so dramatically apart from finding some scheduled appointments being cancelled because of a lack of intensive care beds. The emergency and critical care teams were really the main groups in the front-line last time.
I’ve been working in a busy 367 bedded acute Government hospital for the past 4 years managing surgical emergencies and major trauma. We received our first Covid-19 case on 25th January 2020 and within 2 months the hospital underwent a major transformation to an over 400 bedded Covid-19 hospital. The experiences of China, South Korea and later Italy was played out in the media and we knew that our professional world was about to be turned upside down. Strategic meetings were being held at multiple levels on how to plan and manage the expected tsunami of ill patients. My hospital was designated to be in lock-down as a Covid-19 receiving hospital in March 2020. All elective surgeries were cancelled and surgeons including myself took on new roles to fight the pandemic. Critical care and internal medicine teams of doctors, nurses and allied health have been the main front-liners. Surgical teams were mobilised to support various front-line teams. It has been an amazing experience witnessing such team work with staff working tirelessly together to fight one common enemy and relentlessly putting themselves between the patients and the illness.
My role also took on other dimensions. I was tasked with operational leadership roles creating teams to help set up and manage new Covid-19 isolation centres. I completed my Global MBA with AMBS in 2018 and found many of the modules and group projects coming to my aid. We converted a large university dormitory, hotel and medical centre into safe and efficient covid-19 isolation centres. In the meantime, emergency surgery was still needed. Suited up in layers of protection gear and carrying out long complex operations was a challenge of its own. We have learned a lot about this disease since its start and how to tackle it safely but there is still a lot to learn about how we will return to “the new norm”.
What are your thoughts and reflections on how Covid-19 will change business?
I have always thought that the medical world could be divided into technophiles, technophobes and techo-agnostics and spoke about this at a major UK surgical conference in 2011. Covid-19 has no doubt converted many of the techno-agnostics and even some of the technophobes into technophiles. Telemedicine has been launched in a way no one would have expected. Patients and doctors see its value and I don’t expect it to fade away. Better ways of delivering telemedicine is now the talk of the future. We have seen its benefits and some of the glitches. Outpatient services needed to change and this will be part of that process of improvement. Patients no longer need to attend hospital for simply getting refill medications; we can communicate to those in remote areas better and we can screen patients for health conditions by a series of questions to know who need to have a face-to-face consultation and those who can be followed up by further telemedicine clinics. Multi-disciplinary team meetings between clinicians across the regions was already happening but now its rife in every speciality and hospital and international MDT meetings become a reality. The ideal platform for telemedicine is still unclear and there is no clear market leader, but opportunity is out there and I’m sure competition will be fierce.
I have been running national and international educational surgical courses for over 20 years. These include face-to-face small group sessions and exam viva practice. We have now piloted an online version with multiple breakout rooms to rotate our trainees. We have seen some distinct advantages, but we are yet to be convinced whether this will replace face-to-face courses totally in the long-term and more likely it will be an addition.
One thing I definitely know is that the provision of healthcare will not be the same after this Covid-19 crisis. I believe it will be better!