UAE: Emirati frontliner overcomes working-mom guilt to serve nation

Since the onset of the pandemic, Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri has been working behind the scenes to ensure efficient ways to contain the outbreak



Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri  (Supplied photo)
Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri (Supplied photo)
by

Ashwani Kumar

Published: Mon 21 Mar 2022, 2:44 PM

Last updated: Mon 21 Mar 2022, 10:47 PM

Frontline heroes like Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri have been the backbone of the UAE’s fight against Covid-19.

Since the onset of the pandemic, she has been working behind the scenes to ensure efficient ways to contain the outbreak. And with solid support from her family, the mother of six children has been able to play a stellar role in the response by the UAE, which today leads the post-pandemic global recovery.

On Emirati Mother’s Day, the Executive Director of the Community Health Sector at Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC), opened up on how she forayed into healthcare service, challenges faced during the pandemic and her journey so far.

“I always wanted to be a doctor as far as I remember. I was very attached to my grandparents, and I lost them all due to medical causes that I believed could have been avoided. I wanted to make a difference in other people’s lives and help them enjoy longer times with their loved ones,” she told Khaleej Times in an interview.

“I also believe it was the culture I was brought up in that really inspired me to take on a career in healthcare. The Emirati culture is anchored in the values of respect, kindness, service, and hard work. Along with an innate sense of compassion, I felt it was only natural for me to study medicine and help my community lead healthy lives.”

Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri in 2009 hosting the second night of the Ramadan Lecture series.
Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri in 2009 hosting the second night of the Ramadan Lecture series.

From the onset of the pandemic, Dr Al Hajeri had put all her medical experience and expertise to optimum use.

“As the pandemic unfolded, containing its impact on the community at large was critical. The health and safety of our community was the number one priority for the UAE’s wise leadership and for us at ADPHC as a healthcare organisation. Response plans and protocols were put in place even before the first case was registered in the UAE, early action based on international reports made a huge difference.”

The introduction of the home isolation and quarantine programmes, Dr Al Hajeri underlined, helped contain the spread of Covid-19 in Abu Dhabi.

“The platform incubated hundreds of thousands of cases of Covid-19, and more than one hundred thousand infections were detected during the period of quarantine and monitoring.”

Additionally, there were other proactive measures implemented in collaboration with the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH) like home isolation services through WhatsApp, community outreach programmes ensuring preventative and healthcare services at the doorsteps of high-risk people and special groups, home delivery of medicines, PCR tests and vaccination at home, and remote care programmes.

“Ensuring that no one is left behind was our mission as community health experts.”

Dr Omniyat al Hajeri at a press conference in Abu Dhabi.
Dr Omniyat al Hajeri at a press conference in Abu Dhabi.

With the huge task of tackling the pandemic, maintaining a work-life balance became more challenging.

“For any mother, balancing between your professional and personal life can be difficult, and as the pandemic shifted the dynamics of our daily lives, finding this balance became even more challenging.

This does not only apply to frontliners and healthcare workers, but to working mothers across industries – with the lines between home, work and school blurring over the last two years.”

Being a mother and a frontliner, she overcame her mom’s guilt as she spent long hours on the field for the “greater good” of nation.

“As a mother, the feeling of guilt for me is inevitable, as I want to give both my family and my work as much as I can. As the pandemic required me to be at the frontlines and spend time away from my family, I always reminded myself that this time and effort I am dedicating is for a greater good – and that is the good of my society, community and country, and my family is part of that. This, along with my family’s unwavering support and motivation, kept me going, and helped me overcome the feeling of guilt, fatigue and much more,” she said.

“In the fight against Covid-19, we were all soldiers working together wherever required to do whatever it takes to protect our country, our people and humanity as a whole through taking calculated risks and pushing for innovative approaches.”

Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri during the Abu Dhabi International Mental Health Conference.
Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri during the Abu Dhabi International Mental Health Conference.

Dr Al Hajeri pointed out that the pandemic has highlighted the strong involvement and participation from Emirati women in the healthcare sector.

“I believe it is important to recognise how far we’ve come and the impact we have created as women in medicine, but I think this is only the beginning. I hope that the progress we have made together over the past two years have inspired the next generation of medical professionals,” she said.

“Healthcare and medicine in general are a beautiful mix between science, art, philosophy and creativity. It is touching human life to make it better, despite all the challenges you may face, it is still worth it with all the peace and fulfillment it will bring to you in this life and the rewards it will get you in the afterlife.”

Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri at a health forum in Abu Dhabi.
Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri at a health forum in Abu Dhabi.

Dr Al Hajeri is a specialist in the fields of public health and leadership, diabetes, endocrinology, and metabolic diseases and has spent over 20 years as a consultant at many hospitals in Abu Dhabi.

Asked about her message to the youth aspiring to take on a career in medicine, Dr Al Hajeri added: “The journey is challenging, it is one that requires complete dedication, hard work and a commitment to the service of others. However, the reward is fulfilling, and to know that you are helping your community and are contributing to the health of current and future generations is a blessing.”

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Dr Al Hajeri noted that everyone has a role to play in making the world a better place and she is doing her bit with medicine.

“I feel that I can fulfil this role by contributing my knowledge and expertise to the better of our society and our nation. The inspiring vision of our leadership that puts people at the forefront as well as the amazing colleagues that I work with every day continue to be a strong motivation as I progress in this journey,” she added.


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