Newspapers called me a ‘magician’, says award-winning UAE doctor
In the 1970s, he used to diagnose patients through medical imaging when modern technology was limited.
Abu Dhabi Awards winner Dr Essam Eldin Mohamed El Shammaa is a renowned medical expert with over four decades of experience in the Capital.
In the 1970s, he used to diagnose patients through medical imaging when modern technology was limited. He was the first doctor in Abu Dhabi to use an ultrasound machine, which was the start of a long journey of teaching and mentoring his peers, and convincing community members, especially pregnant women, about the advantages of technology.
“In 1976, I was invited by the government to write a report about the medical imaging services in Abu Dhabi. I came to Abu Dhabi for two weeks from London, where I was working then. When I went to the Corniche Hospital, I found a big box from a medical company. When I enquired what was in the box, no one knew. To my pleasant surprise, it turned out to be an ultrasound machine,” Dr El Shammaa said a day after receiving the Abu Dhabi Awards from His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
Dr El Shammaa left after a brief stay, but only to return in 1977 after taking a sabbatical from his job in London. “I started to teach doctors at Zayed Hospital, Abu Dhabi Central Hospital (now Sheikh Khalifa Medical City) and Mafraq Hospital. Later private hospitals approached me.”
He recollects how community members in those days were skeptical about ultrasound machines, which could determine a baby’s gender and study a developing foetus inside the womb.
“People would ask how I knew a baby’s gender, and that it cannot be predicted. It was rather challenging convincing the community that it is thanks to medical imaging that a baby’s gender and more can be detected. Several newspapers even called me a ‘magician’. It wasn’t easy explaining the benefits behind ultrasound and radiology, and things like how to detect whether it’s a boy or a girl and the foetus position.”
By now Dr El Shammaa had quit his London job to serve full time in Abu Dhabi. “We started to update various medical techniques to save patients’ lives. The ultrasound machine improved the outcome of survival in difficult cases. We then started foetal medicine, i.e., to check abnormalities in a baby during pregnancy. We could provide treatment in many cases resulting in positive clinical outcomes and safe deliveries. It was a difficult time as a lot of people were doubtful, but the resilience grew into confidence.”
His commitment to the profession has led to the Radiology Department at the Corniche Hospital being renamed ‘The Dr El Shammaa Imaging Department’ with his famous motto and legacy of ‘Patients First’ at the hospital.
Dr El Shammaa, who is a Senior Medical Adviser to the Board at United Eastern Medical Services (UEMedical), now hopes to establish a world-class medical research institute in Abu Dhabi.
Dr El Shammaa, who is an Egyptian expat, with British nationality, considers himself an Emirati “After 56 years of my career, including 43 years in Abu Dhabi, I was honoured by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed. This has made my career and my life worthwhile. This is my country now and forever,” said the doctor who is settled here with his wife Nimet and daughter Dina, while his son resides in Sydney.
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