Coronavirus Pandemic

UAE: This Emirati woman led a team that attended to 7K Covid patients Filed on August 27, 2021
Dr Haifa Salem Al Nahdi

During the Covid peak, Seha’s Haifa Salem and her team attended to patients at Al Rahba and Al Mafraq hospital

Managing a team and keeping the morale high at all times is tough, but doing so during an unprecedented pandemic requires true guts and leadership. And Seha’s Haifa Salem Al Nahdi has managed to do it all even during the darkest days — with a smile!

During the Covid peak, the chief medical officer at Al Dhafra Region, Seha (Abu Dhabi Health Services Company), was an incident commander of two hospitals and managed attending to 7,000 Covid patients with her team. The mortality rate at her facilities was less than 1 per cent. Al Nahdi managed teams at both Al Rahba and Al Mafraq hospitals, overseeing more than 500 beds of acute and ICU cases and more than 300 employees. Her faith in leadership, commitment to serve her people and community, and belief in herself is what kept her going and empowered her to take the right decisions.

Al Nahdi has always been passionate about serving the community. “As a physician and a chief medical officer, my main goal is to serve the community and help patients, regardless of the background or the disease. Whether there is a crisis or not, our main goal is to ensure customer satisfaction, patients’ satisfaction and to heal. I chose to become a medical practitioner because I have passion to help the community.”

The role is challenging and has become more so during the pandemic. Asked how she strikes a balance, Al Nahdi said: “It was much easier when I was single. However, with a family — and especially during the pandemic — you are afraid to carry the disease to your loved ones.

“Meanwhile, I am sure that women everywhere can manage different managerial jobs, responsibilities despite all challenges.”

Nevertheless, it always boils down to one’s support network. “My family is my biggest support, especially my husband. Being a physician is not easy. We are 24 hours on call. We sometimes have to take calls post-midnight, or leave our houses too, which can be challenging on the personal front. But I have full support from my family and my husband. Moreover, my seniors and the faculty at the hospital are always there. I also have received all support from Seha. They helped me succeed in different managerial roles and during my career journey. The support to all Emirati women from the Rulers of the UAE and Sheikha Fatima for more than 35 years has been incredible. People believe in the potential of the women, and Emirati women specifically.”

During her stellar career, Al Nahdi has scaled great heights and achieved recognition at various levels. But her real impact is often reflected through the career graphs of people she mentored. “I have mentored many Emirati leaders. I was grateful to have been given a chance to coach and mentor different Emirati leaders who are now holding executive roles.”

Al Nahdi looks up to Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation, Mother of the UAE, as her role model. “She believes in Emirati woman and has supported us by advocating good education, training, and opening career opportunities. She did not restrict the opportunities for us to being a physician or a teacher, but opened creative and innovative opportunities and different engineering opportunities, artificial intelligence roles where women have the opportunity to prove to the community that they can give more to this beloved community. Sheikha Fatima looked at Emirati women with energy and belief that we will succeed. And we did it.”

Her advice to girls and women

“The Emirati Women’s Day is not only on August 28, but every day. We should be proud that we are part of the community, part of the UAE. That we can reward the country for how they have respected us. “Nevertheless, we should be grateful that we have all the resources to succeed. Let’s prove that we can do much more than what is expected. Let’s be ambassadors and innovators in our community, hard workers, let’s be part of the community, not only in one’s career and life, let’s be great sisters, great mothers, great friends and great colleagues on all occasions.”

(This interview is in partnership with Frontline Heroes Office.)


Suneeti Ahuja Kohli

Suneeti Ahuja-Kohli has been in Dubai long enough to call it her spiritual home. She loves to travel but plans to settle down in Koi Samui, Thailand eventually to spend her sunset years by the sea. For now, she writes frequently on personal finance, retirement planning, business news and features, health and almost anything assigned by her editor. Her sojourns can be followed on instagram (suneetiahujakohli), news and views on Twitter @suneetiahuja, and for the rest, there’s a Facebook account.

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