Current Employer: Shaikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi
Background: A member of the Society of British Neurosurgeons, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan, Dr Ahmad moved to Abu Dhabi in 2014, and has found it fascinating. A Consultant Neurosurgeon with a special interest in Paediatric Neurosurgery he has previously worked throughout the United Kingdom, as well as in Pakistan and Ghana. Now he is using his expertise to develop outstanding neurosurgical services for adults and children in the public healthcare system in Abu Dhabi. As well as the clinical side of things he’s passionate about teaching the next generation of neurosurgeons.
Q: Why did you decide to move to the United Arab Emirates?
Ahmad Anwar: I am a trained neurosurgeon and have been working in the UK as a consultant for the last 7 years, so I decided to move to this part of the world for the additional experience, to experience more exposure to a diverse range of people, and also to work outwith the UK again.
As you know, the UAE is a developing country and I wanted to see what new opportunities can come from this experience for my future.”
Q: What has the experience been like so far?
Ahmad Anwar: The experience has been varied. One part is your professional experience in which you are used to provide your service to the people of the UAE, but the second is that it’s a multicultural and multinational society so you get to work with a lot of different people, from different regions, different countries and different religions. It is also very easy to travel from here because it’s very centrally located and there are a lot of extras. I’ve got a lot of time for myself and my family which is a good part of it.
Our working hours are limited, and we do a schedule for ‘on calls’, so that way I can plan my activities with my family much more easily than I could in the UK.
Here I know what my daily commitments are, so I know what I’m going to do because everything is scheduled beforehand. To some extent it is busier, but not as much as it used to be in some of my previous jobs.
Q: What have you found most rewarding about working in the UAE?
Ahmad Anwar: I find that being a well trained neurosurgeon and having experience from abroad in the UK, I can implement and bring some of those in the health sector new procedures, but also I have a great role in developing junior staff for the future department, because there is a lack of trained people, especially from Western countries, making it a good opportunity to develop your own department which is something one can look forward to. If you have a subspecialty then that is also something you can develop for yourself, and for the people of the UAE, over here.
Q: How did you find adapting to life in the UAE?
Ahmad Anwar: I have a little bit of an advantage in that I’m originally from Pakistan so I’ve been in this area before, but if somebody is coming for the first time, the culture is slightly different. The care on the professional side is very similar, almost the same actually. Everything from the instruments to the staff are the same, but the main difference is in the part played by the family, decision making in patient care is not only down to one person, it’s the whole family who decide on treatment which is something I had to learn.
Also the expectations of the outcome of treatment are slightly more here compared to what we’re used to seeing in Western society, so I can say that here sometimes you find you have to be most definite about what treatment you are giving to them, and also you need to process all the consequences because if something goes wrong then it creates a little bit of anxiety for you and for the family, because they are not used to this. I don’t know why, but this is what I’ve seen in my three years of experience in the UAE.
Q: What sort of person would be suited to a move to the country?
Ahmad Anwar: I would definitely say that this is not a place suited to someone starting their career in a surgical speciality, because the demand of treatment and cases are not as simple, and you have to work alone because you don’t have the support team which we have in the NHS.
In the NHS you would have a senior colleague and your team of juniors. Here you have to do one man shows, so I would say you should not come over until you have a little bit of experience and think you can manage things on your own. That would be the best time to come and work here, because it’s really a good experience to develop in all respects professionally and socially.”
Q: How did you find working with Odyssey?
Ahmad Anwar: I was planning a move, but it cannot be shaped without the help of a recruitment agency, and I found Odyssey very helpful. I gave them my CV and they found a job for me, and then they negotiated all the processes from the initial stage of interview, the visit to the hospital, and finally deciding about the job and about the contract you want. This was very useful to do through an agent rather than doing it yourself, because with your job in one hand you cannot follow up.
It’s a slow process, it takes time to get a good job which meets all your needs and requirements, so I am really thankful to my recruiting agent.
Another thing is that they also follow you up after coming here to find out how you are doing, and if there’s any way (because of their experience) I could discover how to solve new things I come across.”
Q: What is it like where you live?
Ahmad Anwar: Abu Dhabi is the central capital city, it is not a concrete jungle like Dubai! It’s just like any Western city, Abu Dhabi has got a lot of Arabian culture. The city is very well planned, and the accommodation is of your dreams - I can say that as I feel like I’m lucky to be in Abu Dhabi.
Q: How well trained are your colleagues?
Ahmad Anwar: In our hospital most of the consultants are Western trained, either from the UK, Western Europe and a few from America, Canada, and India, the local doctors are in a small percentage, but even they also often have training hours from the USA and Canada. It’s a multinational medical team, and the nursing staff are also multicultural; mainly from the Philippines, India and other countries like Jordan, Syria, Germany.
Our hospital is a tertiary, referral surgery. It’s the largest hospital in Abu Dhabi, so we have almost every speciality, with every level of trained people in each department.”
Q: Why did you decide to leave the UK?
Ahmad Anwar: I worked in the NHS for ten years, and it becomes monotonous and it’s good to take a break, not only for yourself, but because it may benefit other people. That’s one thing you should think, how can you contribute from your experience? If you are a paediatric neurosurgeon why don’t you come here to work in that speciality and leave a legacy within the country, because they will remember you if you set up a department.
Secondly there is always the opportunity to go back, so it’s not that once you come here you become deskilled. The opportunities get you good exposure to different kinds of cases, and the hospitals are very well equipped so you don’t miss anything on that front. The staff working alongside you are also very experienced, so I don’t feel very much different.
The only thing is the cultural bit, you have to know the language a little, and it goes in your favour if you learn Arabic before coming, or if you have an interest or know Arabic then it’s much easier for you to take a job. The downside is that it’s always hot here, you miss the rain you see in the UK...occasionally! The traffic here is also sometimes very bizarre on the highways, so you have to drive carefully.
Life is in general good though, we get about 30 working days holiday, and then there are a lot of national and religious holidays as well, so you get an average of almost two months on holiday each year which are paid, so that’s a very good part. It’s very easy and convenient to travel from here to Southeast Asia, to Australia and I will say that so far my time has been good, one should also plan that you can’t gain everything in a short span, you should at least stay for 5 years, and then you should decide whether or not you want to extend your time in the country.
What I will say though is don’t come with your door closed in the UK or where you are working. You should stay in contact with them and remind them of what you are doing, so there’s always an opportunity for you to go back.
Read more case studies from our candidates and clients in the United Arab Emirates