Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013
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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