Women of the UAE: Dr Houriya Kazim is a surgeon on a mission

Dr Houriya Kazim, who specialises in breast cancer surgery, at the Well Woman Clinic in Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National

The country’s first female surgeon is creating awareness that breast cancer can indeed be beaten.

DUBAI // Hailing from a family of doctors, it was almost inevitable that Houriya Kazim would decide to go to medical school.

It was the health of the community rather than individual patients that attracted her to the profession.

“I was always interested in the collective health, so I started medical school wanting to specialise in infectious diseases,” she says. “I thought I would then go and save people in developing countries.”

However, a moment during her studies altered her ambitions.

“Halfway through medical school, someone put a scalpel in my hand and that was it, I changed to wanting to be a surgeon,” says Dr Kazim.

During an internship at Rashid Hospital, she was so moved by the women she was helping treat who had advanced breast cancer that she decided to train to specialise in breast cancer surgery.

After studying abroad at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, she returned to Dubai at the end of the 1990s “to find that there was absolutely no kind of awareness about this disease”, she says.

“So, in a way things came full circle and I look after the breast health of my community.”

Dr Kazim, the UAE’s first female surgeon, believes that a reason the disease was so rife in the 1990s was “the modesty of the women who were uncomfortable showing their bodies to male doctors, causing the cancerous lumps to grow”.

So she founded the Well Woman Clinic as a way of creating trust with patients.

“The clinic is for all women’s health care needs and is staffed entirely by women,” says Dr Kazim.

She makes sure that she employs specialists who are “well trained, know their job and are not financially motivated”.

“This way, a patient will always get an honest opinion on what they have and what they need to do about it and hopefully will not go off to see five or six other doctors.”

She notices that breast cancer in this region “is aggressive and occurs in younger women that you see in the West”.

“I really would like to start researching why this is the case,” she says.

So, she has launched a charity, called Breast Friends, in partnership with the Al Jalila Foundation, to instigate some locally based research into the causes.

She hopes that more Emirati women will follow in her footsteps in taking up a career as a surgeon, although she says she understands why some would be deterred from doing so.

“It is a difficult speciality,” she said. “Training as a surgeon, there are long hours of strenuous work and years of more study on top of that.”

Making such a commitment could lead some women to consider postponing getting married or having children.

“Surgery is also very much a man’s world. I had no female mentors,” she says.

“These were issues that I had to think about and know in myself that all of this was a means to an end.

“I knew what I wanted and like anything else, there were sacrifices along the way,” she says.

 

Original Article: http://goo.gl/GKpoa5

 

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