Dr Abdalla Daar is now based in Canada, where he is a leading scholar of public health. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A pioneering organ transplant surgeon in the UAE has wished the country greate progress, even as he recollected his early days here.

Speaking from Canada, where he is now a leading scholar of public health, Dr Abdalla Daar specially conveyed wishes for a more glorious future for the UAE on the occasion of its Golden Jubilee.

“I went to the UAE in 1984 because I had been invited to  help establish a medical school in Al Ain and also start a transplant programme. I lived in Abu Dhabi and [travelled often to the eastern oasis city],” Dr Daar told Gulf News.

The UAE was a very different place three decades ago, and Dr Daar remembered it fondly. “It was a much smaller place with fewer people. People were friendly, helpful and courteous,” he said. “I had to travel frequently between Abu Dhabi and Al Ain in my role as a member of the founding committee of the medical school in Al Ain,” said the scholar, who now lives in Toronto.

During his time in the UAE, Dr Daar was part of a team that performed a solid organ transplant in the young country — a kidney transplant — in 1985. The procedure was undertaken at Mafraq Hospital, a long-standing public hospital.

“Mafraq Hospital was, at the time, quite far from the city centre. The transplant itself was, as I recall it, for a Palestinian patient,” Dr Daar said. There were challenges to performing the procedure. “These were mainly related to doing everything for the first time, such as setting up protocols and training medical and nursing staff. Sister Myrna, who had some experience in transplantation from Kuwait, ably assisted me. On the Nephrology side, there was Dr Avinash Pingle, who was based at the Royal Hospital in Abu Dhabi. We worked as a team that included Dr Ibrahim Husain, another really accomplished surgeon and father of BBC presenter Mishal Husain,” Dr Daar said.

The UAE, at the time, did not have a deceased donor law, with the current regulations on cadaveric donations coming into effect only in 2017. Dr Daar, therefore, mostly performed or oversaw living related donors. “I cannot remember the exact number of transplants I oversaw, but it was likely about 50 or so,” Dr Daar said.

One of the procedures was for Mohammad Rafiq. His 25-year-old brother, Mohammad Hanif, recently spoke to Gulf News about donating his kidney to his older sibling in 1986. Dr Daar was the consultant surgeon for the procedure, which also took place at Mafraq Hospital.

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While in Oman, Dr Daar performed what is still known as the world’s youngest cadaveric kidney transplant. Image Credit: Supplied

Moving to Oman

Dr Daar lived in Abu Dhabi for three years, before moving to Oman in 1988. “I moved to Oman to help establish, once again, a medical school, this time at the Sultan Qaboos University. There, I was appointed as chair of surgery, and later as head of the Transplant Programme,” Dr Daar said. While in Oman, Dr Daar performed what is still known as the world’s youngest cadaveric kidney transplant. The procedure, performed in 1994, involved a donor born at 33 weeks gestation, with the organ transplanted into a 17-month-old boy with a rare kidney disease.

Dr Daar has gone on to be an Emeritus Professor of one of the world’s leading biomedical ethicists today.

Meanwhile, the UAE has seen the implementation of a deceased donor law that has greatly increased the number of transplants in the country. In addition, Abu Dhabi’s public health provider, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha), last month signed an agreement with the United States’ Alliance for Paired Kidney Donations in order to increase the pool of organs available for transplant.

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“This is all very good news and I wish them all the luck. I hope the UAE will establish a strong cadaveric donor programme,” Dr Daar said, just as the country was about to celebrate its Golden Jubilee.