Dubai: Dr Sara Al Bastaki is the UAE’s first Emirati surgeon for colorectal cancer. “It is such a great pleasure to be able to share my knowledge and expertise with the people of UAE,” said Dr Al Bastaki, whose family and ancestors, as the name suggests, are from the historic Bastakiya district of Dubai.
Dr Bastaki completed medical school at Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI). She continued her surgical residency programme in Germany where she subsequently completed her three years fellowship in colorectal surgery between Germany and London. “I had to learn German. It was tough but very fulfilling.”
She joined Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi, as a consultant colorectal surgeon. The Emirati surgeon is specialised in laparoscopic surgery for benign and malignant colorectal diseases, management of low rectal cancer like TATME/TAMIS and proctology.
Dr Al Bastaki was elected President of Emirates Society of Colon and Rectal Surgery (ESCRS).The Emirati surgeon was recently appointed as division head of general surgery at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi.
Childhood and finding her passion for surgery
“I love what I do. Even as a child I played with medical toys and pretended I was doing an operation. I knew I loved to work with my hands. It was a dream and passion to help others. I also knew I loved working with my hands. So it was inevitable that I would be a surgeon,” she said.
Dr Al Bastaki reminisced the role of her mother while growing up.
“A very strong lady, she pushed my siblings and me to study, work hard for a living. She was the force behind all of our achievements. My sister Dr Ibtesam Al Bastaki, who is Director of Healthcare Investment and PPP Projects, Dubai Health Authority, has been a great inspiration for me as well. My oldest brother took the lead at travelling abroad for education. But when my sister Ibtesam went to Dublin to study medicine, I was so inspired.”
Spearheading a campaign
“So many milestones have been achieved here in the UAE when it comes to colorectal cancer. We are the first country to start screening for people 40 and above. The screening is very simple,” added Dr Al Bastaki, who is spearheading a colorectal awareness campaign in the UAE.
“When it comes to cancer, breast cancer is the most talked about. There are many awareness programmes which have helped educate women. But little is known about colorectal cancer. And I am looking forward to educating people on this.”
She added: “Colorectal cancer is the second most common neoplasia in the UAE affecting people at an average age of 51 years. Yet, people are unaware of the fact that colon and rectal diseases, including cancer, are very common among the general population.”
She said diet, for example, is a key element to take care of when it comes to colon cancer. “Exercise is equally important. You are what you eat. So one should make sure to eat a balanced diet and exercise at least 30 to 40 minutes a day.”
Dr Al Bastaki along with a team founded the Emirates Society of Colon and Rectal Surgery. As founder and president of ESCRS, she holds various workshops and events to spread awareness about the cancer. “As part of our ongoing efforts, we are organising the first Emirates International Colorectal Congress on March 4, 2023.”
Dr Al Bastaki makes it a point to create a work life balance. “In my job, rest is important. I love travelling and seeing the world. It is a very enriching experience.”
She said she is forever inspired by the UAE leaders who have a dream and a vision for the nation. “We have grown around a theme that the bigger you dream, the bigger you achieve. This is always etched in my memory.”
She said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has said, “The bigger our dreams, the bigger our accomplishments.”
She said: “This is very profound and I stand by this totally.”