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Dr Arif Al Nooryani, Consultant Cardiologist, and Executive Director of Al Qasimi Hospital in Sharjah. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Sharjah: Morning doesn’t always show the day!

Take, for instance, the fascinating story of this doctor in the UAE. His childhood ambition was to become a police officer. He also loved playing snooker and even had a literary bent of mind. His penchant for reading poetry, novels and historical series probably made him believe that he would dabble into literature at some point in his life and career.

Not just that. His love for music and musical instruments saw him become a member of his school choir. Later on, he even started presenting the morning show in his school. And yet, destiny had something else in store for this remarkable professional who finally went on to wield the scalpel, as an interventional cardiologist, with the same passion and dedication with which a painter wields the paintbrush, or for that matter, how a violinist applies the bow.

Meet Dr Arif Al Nooryani — consultant cardiologist and executive director of Al Qasimi Hospital, Sharjah, who is a prominent medical practitioner not just in the UAE, but around the world. He is currently the head of the Heart Centre at the hospital. From dermatology to internal medicine to finally finding his bearings as an interventional cardiologist, Dr Al Nooryani’s tryst with medicine has been no less than a roller-coaster ride.

Though he earned a lot of fame as a cardiologist, interestingly, cardiology was not his first love when he chose to take up medicine as a career option. According to Dr Al Nooryani, a keen interest in biology brought him to the world of medicine and it was his mother who encouraged him to pursue medicine in Germany. But he had never given cardiology a serious thought — until circumstances brought him closer to this branch of medicine and his wife started egging him on to opt for it as his specialisation.

The turning point

“In 1993, I returned to the UAE from Germany and started looking for a job here. The first choice was to work in Dubai. Working for the Ministry of Health was my second option, but I eventually opted for a job with the Ministry of Health as a dermatologist. I had a professor in dermatology who was my role model and I was quite excited, too, about this branch of specialisation. But life had something else in store for me,” Dr Al Nooryani said.

When he joined the Ministry of Health to specialise in dermatology, he was advised to go for internal medicine instead, because of his shortcomings with the English language. It was not easy for him to communicate in English since he had studied medicine in the German language for so many years. So he did not object when he was told to join the internal medicine wing. However, after having worked in the internal medicine department for one year, he started developing a liking for it and thereafter never even thought about switching back to dermatology ever again. Dr Al Nooryani said: “However, gradually, I started showing interest in cardiology. It was more challenging, more rewarding for me and it felt like as if that was the place where I belonged. So, I decided to choose cardiology.” And yes, of course, his decision also had a lot to do with the encouragement he got from his wife.

Interventional cardiology

Around that time, interventional cardiology was fast emerging in Europe and other western countries. “We had really nobody in UAE at that time who was an expert in interventional cardiology. So, after a five-year stint in internal medicine at Al Qasimi Hospital, I decided to go back to the cardiac centre in Munich, Germany, for my post-graduate study in interventional cardiology ,” Dr Al Nooryani said.
In 1998, he completed his studies in interventional cardiology with a scholarship and then spent another six years at the cardiology centre.

He returned to UAE in 2003 and rejoined Al Qasimi Hospital. “By that time, I had behind me six years of study in interventional cardiology and 20 years of study in medicine,” he said. “When I joined the hospital, a Cath Lab machine, which is a kind of X-ray machine, was installed in Al Qasimi Hospital. It was a very basic set-up for interventional cardiology. We started with a small staff strength of just one doctor, one nurse and three technicians,” Dr Al Nooryani added.

“In the first year, we handled 23 cases that were solved with the help of correct diagnosis — no stents, no balloons, just running checks for whether there was anything wrong in the coronary artery and then transferring the patient to Dubai or Abu Dhabi, Al Mafraq Hospital, for further procedures,” said Dr Al Nooryani, who loves football, with Al Nasr and Real Madrid being his favourite club teams.

Dr Al Nooryani said Hamd Al Midfa, the then minister of health, supported them and provided them with whatever help they needed to save lives. Over time, the department at Al Qasimi Hospital has grown and it now has four Cath Labs with 15 nurses and 14 doctors running the facilities. From 23 cases in the year of its inception, the Cath Labs at Al Qasimi Hospital now handle 1,500-plus cases annually.

Early years

Dr Al Nooryani was born at Maktoum Hospital in Dubai in 1966 in the Hor Al Anz area. His family comprised his mother, father and five siblings — two brothers older to him and two younger brothers. He entered Al Hamriya Kindergarten and did his primary schooling at Salah Al-Din Al-Ayoubi School. Later, he moved to Dubai High School.

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Dr Arif Al Nooryani studied German language before medicine Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Pursuing studies abroad

“I finished my schooling in 1983 from Dubai High School and then decided to travel abroad for higher studies. I landed in what was then West Germany and started studying medicine. My hobbies that time were literature, writing stories, poems, but it was destiny that shaped my career in medicine.

“Coming from a different culture, it was really not easy for me to get used to life in Germany. At a time when there was no Instagram, no WhatsApp the only way one could stay in touch with far-off friends and near relations was by writing letters, using the postal system. The other option was to make expensive overseas calls.”

But he still managed to stay in touch with his family. “I feel sorry for our children now because there is no family bonding like before”, he rued.

Academic stint in Germany

Dr Al Nooryani’s academic stint in Germany took 10 years — from 1983-1993 — during which he had to learn the German language for a year and then repeat high school for another year in German. After that, he spent another eight years studying medicine in the German city of Ulm.

But despite the hard grind that he was made to go through, Dr Al Nooryani said he started enjoying studying medicine right from day one and never regretted his choice of the subject or the place of study. Moreover, as a doctor, the humanitarian side of his profession gave him a lot of satisfaction.

‘Attention to innovation’

“We have dealt with very complex and challenging cases at Al Qasimi Hospital. We have organised 500 workshops, inviting prominent figures from all over around the world. Renowned doctors have come to Al Qasimi Hospital and performed surgeries with a success rate of more than 99 per cent. Besides, we have paid a lot of attention to innovation. We started pressure wire in 2004, which was a first for this country,” he added.
Dr Al Nooryani is also the associate professor of Cardiology at University of Sharjah since September 2018. He established the Cardiac Catheterisation Unit in Al Qasimi hospital, using modern technologies in the operations performed at the centre, such as the use of robots in cardiac surgeries for the first time outside the United States, and also the use of Da Vinci robotic technique. He conducted many heart surgeries that were broadcast live to countries around the world during international conferences.

He had also established a cardiology unit at Al Qasimi Hospital and turned it into an integrated and distinguished centre. It started with a small budget in 2003, but went on to attract talented physicians and many patients with its high quality of service.

Awards and honours

Dr Al Nooryani has received many awards and honours, including the Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Award for Best Medical Centre 2012, the Emirates Pride Medal 2012, and the GCC Award for Distinguished Doctor 2015. He was also honoured with the Hamdan Award for Distinguished Medical Personalities in the Medical Field in the UAE at its tenth session in 2017-2018.

Dr Al Nooryani believes that humility is the key to his success. He strongly believes that human ambition cannot and should not be determined or limited by age.

Gratitude to UAE leadership

Talking about the UAE and its phenomenal success over the last 50 years, Dr Al Nooryani says that the country owes its achievements to its Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Dr Al Nooryani also expressed his gratitude for having received the UAE Medal of Pride, which was conferred upon him by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

In June 2021, Dr Al Nooryani fondly recalled, His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah and President of the University of Sharjah (UoS), honoured Dr Al Nooryani with an honorary doctorate degree from UoS. Dr Al Nooryani said he had received a call from the Sharjah Ruler breaking the happy news to him about the award. He also recalled how Dr Sheikh Sultan, once during a meeting with the Board of Directors of Al Qasimi Hospital, had responded to a request to support the Cardiology Centre at the hospital.

‘Immense pride and satisfaction’

“Right from the first day of your academic career in medicine, you are referred to as ‘doctor’. That is a matter of immense pride and satisfaction. It indeed is something prestigious. That is why I push all my children to opt for medicine as a career choice,” said Dr Al Nooryani, who has three children — two of them are studying medicine, while the third is studying law.

“I am lucky to have such a lovely family, supporting me at every step. I am also grateful to the team at Al Qasimi Hospital who have stood by me for the past so many years,” he concluded.