First Emirati surgeon aimed to benefit his country
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Dubai: As a young man, Dr Najeeb Al Khaja wanted to benefit his country by majoring in a field that was needed immensely by his people.
Al Khaja is the first Emirati heart surgeon, making him a pioneer in the UAE’s medical field.
Obtaining a medical degree at a time when universities and the field itself did not exist in the UAE was difficult, he told Gulf News everyone who wanted to pursue higher education in the 70s had to travel abroad.
“I spent 15 years of my life abroad pursuing my education. I first studied in Ain Al Shams University in Egypt, where I majored in heart surgery in 1982, I then went to Sweden’s Gothenburg university, where I obtained the Swedish Board Certificate, specialising in cardiology and chest surgery, in 1991.”
Al Khaja came back to the UAE and established the first independent and integrated department for cardiology surgery in Dubai Hospital.
“It was a great challenge to establish the programme because we had to start from zero.”
When asked how it felt to be a pioneer in the medical field he said: “Any person who studied and worked hard to benefit his country in a field that does not exist but was needed would feel proud of his achievement. At that time the country needed a lot of professionals in different fields. It needed doctors, engineers, architects and many more.”
Dr Al Khaja commended the initiative of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, saying that Shaikh Mohammad has always been an inspiration to his people.
“We have so many pioneers and so many people who deserve to be recognised. The initiative will stimulate the country to be even more productive and pursue chances.”
Dr Al Khaja, who was born in Dubai in 1956, attended Al Ahmediyah School and obtained the Secondary School Certificate in 1974. Al Khaja who performed thousands of heart surgeries, also taught in Dubai Medical College and Gothenburg University. He is currently the CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Charity Foundation, President of the Centre for Arab Genomic Studies, and Secretary-General of the Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Medical Sciences.