Abu Dhabi: Way back in 1976, Dr Essam Eldin Mohamed El Shammaa was invited by the Abu Dhabi Government to review the medical imaging services in Abu Dhabi. After spending as little as two weeks in Abu Dhabi, he fell in love with the city’s simplicity, its people and instantly detected a potential for medical growth. That was when he decided to take up medical imaging detection as a career option.
He went back to London, which is where he worked as a consultant radiologist, and in 1977, he decided to pack his bags and return to what he now refers to as his own home -- Abu Dhabi -- with his wife and two children. From there, Dr El Shammaa worked selflessly at the Corniche Hospital for more than four decades, witnessing over two million ultrasound examinations, some of them complicated.
Dr El Shammaa still lives in Abu Dhabi with his wife, daughter and grandchildren and is glad he took the decision to return to Abu Dhabi 44 years ago.
“I clearly recall how sceptical people were at the time. It was hard for them to believe that a machine was able to determine a baby’s gender and study the development of a foetus inside the womb. By the grace of God and with the leadership’s continuous support, the resilience grew into confidence,” he said.
Dr El Shammaa was the first doctor in Abu Dhabi to use an ultrasound machine, which was the start of a long journey of changing a society’s outlook regarding fetal and gender detection, which at first was not conceivable. Alongside, he also trained doctors at Zayed Hospital, Abu Dhabi Central Hospital (now Sheikh Khalifa Medical City) and Mafraq Hospital. Later, private hospitals also approached him for assistance. He was also keen on transferring his knowledge to the young generation of medical professionals and decided to develop a training centre for young graduate doctors.
Commitment to imaging diagnosis
Despite the initial resistance that Dr El Shammaa faced, his ethical and professional commitment to imaging diagnoses earned him the respect and confidence of pregnant women and families. He successfully managed to change the overall culture of medicine in a short time span. “With the introduction of fetal medicine and advanced ultrasound, we started to update various medical techniques to save patients’ lives, while offering relevant treatment to various complicated pregnancies,” he added.
His commitment to the profession led to the renaming of the Radiology Department at the Corniche Hospital to ‘Dr El Shammaa Imaging Department’, leaving Dr El Shammaa’s legacy of ‘Patients First’ at the hospital to this day.
Dr El Shammaa recalls many memorable and honourable moments throughout his career, but the ultimate moment was when he received the Abu Dhabi Award from His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
The ‘amazing’ people of Abu Dhabi
“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. Abu Dhabi has always been my home, and not for one second did I feel otherwise. I cannot ask for a more honourable recognition. The most important factor and reason for me to return to beloved Abu Dhabi in August 1977 was its amazing people. No words can describe how warm, kind, loving and generous Emiratis are. I simply love them,” Dr El Shammaa added.
Despite his age, Dr El Shammaa’s passion for his profession and service to community remains intact. He is currently a Senior Medical Adviser to the Board at United Eastern Medical Services. He hopes to establish a world-class medical research institute that will provide latest medical consultancy to the UAE community and beyond.
Role of husbands – the game changer
When asked how the current generation of pregnant patients react during medical consultations, in comparison to those in the past, Dr El Shammaa said: “Now, mothers constantly follow up with the doctors and are much more aware. Medicine is constantly evolving and fetal behaviour can be detected. There’s much more interest to learn and understand these aspects. The number of working mothers has also increased -- thanks to the wise, encouraging and futuristic outlook of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima. God grant her health,” he said.
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He added that a huge factor behind the improvement in the overall health and wellbeing of expectant mothers is the role played by their husbands and their support. “I constantly advise and encourage husbands to help their pregnant wives by joining them during their visits to the doctors and take good care of them during the entire pregnancy.”