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Friday, May 24, 2024

Developing a centre of excellence

by Joanna Andrews

© Dubai Media Office
© Dubai Media Office: HH Sheikh Mohammed with his daughter Sheikha Al Jalila at the official launch

The newly-launched Al Jalila Foundation, set up by Dubai Ruler HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has big plans to improve healthcare services in the UAE. The CEO of the Foundation, Dr Abdul Kareem Sultan Al Olama, told Joanna Andrews the Foundation aims to promote the UAE as a centre of excellence in the field of medical education and research – and treatment. But first, it needs to raise AED 100 million by the end of this year…

Developing a centre of excellence in the medical sector is a top priority for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. He recently launched the Al Jalila Foundation - a non-profit organisation. The aim: to position Dubai at the forefront of medical innovation and cutting-edge research through three main pillars; Healthcare, medical education and research.

The Foundation recently established three new committees to govern the non-profitable entity in a bid to increase transparency:

  1. Scientific Advisory Committee
  2. Fund Management Committee
  3. Audit, Risk & Compliance Committee

HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline and Group – who is also Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation - said in a media statement, “The UAE epitomises the principles of integrity, prudence and collective input, therefore our Foundation strives to emulate these principles of responsible governance. We will utilise the experience of acclaimed experts whose areas of expertise range from the scientific, academic, financial, administrative, philanthropic and other fields.”

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group is Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Al Jalila Foundation. It has also caught the attention of many other prominent UAE business men – including HE Easa Saleh Al Gurg, Chairman of the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group.

Joanna Andrews caught up with the CEO of the Al Jalila Foundation, Dr Abdul Kareem Sultan Al Olama to find out more…

Why was the Al Jalila Foundation set up?
The main reason HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum established the Foundation was to encourage more qualified doctors to work in the UAE. But, for highly-skilled doctors to come here you need three things – medical education, research and quality healthcare. We already have some top doctors here but we need to maintain high standards, which means we need to conduct more research. There is a gap in research in the UAE and the Al Jalila Foundation wants to bridge that gap.

Dubai is a transient city, so how do you plan to attract – and retain - top medical professionals?
The Al Jalila Foundation offers incentives for people to stay. For medical education we will give scholarships for people to study medicine and a specialisation, and then we give them grants to conduct research. We have three kinds of programmes – including a fellowships programme - where we train them how to conduct research; how to write a paper and how to publish a paper. Plus we have laboratory research programmes.

What needs improving the most in your opinion in the UAE?
We need to focus on prevention, because prevention is better than cure. For example, in special needs cases, like children with autism or attention disorders, there was a study that showed if you spend one dirham in their early childhood you can save seven dirhams when they grow up. That’s a big saving. We want parents and teachers to diagnose children early so they can be treated early. Prevention and awareness are very important. For example, treating childhood obesity early can prevent other health problems later on. What is the Al Jalila Foundation's biggest achievement to date? We will soon be launching our scholarship programme and our special needs programme. These are major achievements. There is a priority from the Board of Trustees that whatever programme we do, it has to be sustainable; it cannot be short-term. There is a well-known Chinese proverb that says ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’ That’s what we are trying to do.

You recently set up three governance panels to ensure transparency. Tell me about the importance of this?
This is another big achievement. In a short time we have developed a governance structure that is built around ethics, transparency and expertise. We have the Board of Trustees and a Board of Directors; we have the Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee. Because we are non-profit, we receive donations so everything should be very clear and transparent. Then we have the Fund Management Committee to manage the funds and ensure they are invested in the right way for a sustainable outcome. We also have a Scientific Advisory Committee who will give the grants, decide on the scholarships and which patients will be treated. On top of that we have Deloitte as our third party auditor.

What are the Foundation’s biggest challenges?
Our first challenge is that we have to raise AED 100 million ($27.2 million) this year. We are on target, but we can’t get complacent. Our work can’t be done without donations. We want to create a culture of research, because research it is the only way to prosper. Our next challenge is to ensure we do the right programmes – and the right thing for the community.

Being non-profit, how do you raise awareness to get the funds you need for sustainability?
We have a lot of philanthropists in Dubai who like donating to good causes. The Foundation provides grant and seed money to support cutting-edge research on health problems in the region. It also plays a vital role in educating healthcare professionals, conducting health awareness campaigns, promoting healthy lifestyles and preventive measures. These are good causes. We are trying to build a culture of research; we would like philanthropists to donate towards medical research. In research you don’t see the rewards immediately; it’s for the future. With the help of the Board of Trustees we can establish that culture. But it is not just about funds from philanthropists, for us any dirham is welcome. No donation is too small.

The Al Jalila Foundation is a “local initiative with global aspirations,” what are your global ambitions?
First, we have already established international standards because of the governance bodies and we are playing at an international level. Second, we are looking at having some international programmes and we are already in contact with world organisations – especially for treating patients with global diseases which can be fatal, like malaria. We are talking to organisations to find a suitable programme to help prevent these types of diseases. We would like to collaborate with international organisations like UNICEF, WHO and others.


To donate to the Al Jalila Foundation...
Toll Free: 800-ALJALILA
Tel: +971 4 449 6444

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