Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Khaleej Times

The entrepreneurial Dr Amal Al Shunnar assists childless 
couples in achieving their dream using breakthrough 
fertility treatments — and a positive attitude.

The spirit of entrepreneurship is key to women’s empowerment and their social and economic development, and when it is combined with medical service and contribution, you have someone like Dr Amal Al Shunnar.

An IVF (in vitro fertilisation) specialist, the 
Emirati doctor runs one of the most successful 
fertility clinics in both the UAE and the Gulf region. At the 5th Annual Women in Leadership Forum 
held last month in Dubai, Dr Amal was conferred the Most Innovative Woman

Entrepreneur award, 
for introducing the newest techniques in the 
field of assisted reproduction, and for groundbreaking achievements that have catapulted 
assisted fertility in the UAE to exceed international standards.

But Dr Amal prefers to talk about her clinic 
Fakih IVF’s successes, over her achievements. “By continuously striving for the highest success 
rates possible for our patients, Fakih IVF has achieved many milestones in assisted reproductive medicine and IVF treatment.

Recently, we were 
the first such centre in the UAE to introduce the EmbryoScope — a groundbreaking technology which enables us to take periodical pictures of 
embryos as they grow inside the incubator,” says 
Dr Amal. “Further, Fakih IVF is the only one in 
the Middle East with an in-house, fully func-
tional genetic lab, which screens for hereditary 
diseases in embryos and identifies the gender of healthy embryos. There was a time, when many people in the 
UAE used to travel abroad for IVF treatment, with only basic techniques being available here. “Today, the formula has changed. We have everything 
available here, with success rates in line with the 
highest

international standards. These days, we 
have people flying in from overseas, especially in the case of recurrent IVF failures, which is our expertise,” says Dr Amal. A field with challenges, no doubt, but it was a natural step for Dr Amal, who comes from a family of doctors. “My father was a general practitioner and my mother an influential obstetrician who has delivered 13,000 children in Dubai, to date. At a very young age, I was exposed to the medical 
field. If my mother wasn’t at the clinic, her patients came to our home to deliver their babies! 
We grew up with an appreciation for the doctor-patient relationship. “Growing up, I also grew passionate about 
treating and caring for women, and decided to specialise in infertility and reproductive endocrinology. However, my inspiration for reproductive medicine developed on meeting Dr Fakih, my husband and the clinic’s founder. He did not follow conventional IVF protocols and is very innovative in his approach,”she states. The couple work very well together and their 
vision to make a difference led to founding 
Fakih IVF two years ago. They have since invested heavily in imported technology, equipment and 
staff training. There are absolutely no barriers in 
being a female medical practitioner in the UAE, says Dr Amal. “In fact, I’m blessed to be a woman in the UAE, it has never been a hindrance to my progress in any way. As for challenges, they only came with having to learn the actual business of running a medical clinic. “The qualities a woman doctor need are multitasking and time management. Prioritise what is most important to you in your life, and focus on these, deciding which aspects you may wish to compromise on, as you go. I stay positive and spend enough time with my children, keeping some consistency in their 
routine and letting them know of any changes that come up: it makes their life and mine easier.

AWARDING EXCELLENCE: Maryam Mohammed Khalfan Al Roumi (left),UAE’s Minister of Social Affairs, presenting the MostInnovative Woman Entrepreneur award to Dr Amal Al Shunnar (centre) at the 5th Annual Women in Leadership Forum “My tip to other women doctors is 
to make it a point to talk to their child-
ren about their work, as they learn 
to appreciate and see the world in other ways. At the workplace, be the first to arrive and lead by example. I take energy from both aspects of my life — I let the fulfillment of my work boost my energy at home, and my 
private life freshen me up for the challenges at work.” The problems facing a lady medical practitioner are the more personal sort, states the specialist. “Any young woman entering the medical field must know that it takes years of dedication to make it, but the rewards are great. Often, you might find that you may not initially be sure why you’re here or where you’re headed towards in this field, but you do get a sense of direction and genuine dedication over the years.” The far bigger problems are those 
that childless couples in the UAE 
face. “By far, the most common gynaecological issue is polycystic ovaries (PCOs) with hormonal irregularities and tubal damage, usually to previous pelvic infection. Many women with PCOs get pregnant easily the first time, and 
after post-delivery weight gain, find it difficult to conceive again — we call this secondary fertility,” reveals Dr Amal. Women who wish to delay child-
bearing must consult a doctor in reproductive medicine, she feels. “Some women may want to consider freezing their eggs, or not delay having a child, 
according to what their ovarian and age assessment says. With the current trend in late marriages and delayed conception come unexpected fertility difficulties. Many women see celebrities having twins at a later age, and feel it is simple to wait that long before they conceive, not realising these may be surrogate pregnancies and many failed attempts at IVF treatments. And, please don’t smoke! It doesn’t just age your face, it ages your ovaries.”


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