Doctors spend long years educating themselves and an enormous amount of time and effort saving and helping people live better lives. They risk themselves, disconnect from their families, and are the front-line in times like the Covid-19 pandemic. It has always been interesting for other people to understand how doctors manage their lives and spend their days given those facts. People always wanted to know whether doctors enjoyed a work-life balance and were interested in things other than work.
We have brought you five interesting conversations with doctors in Kuwait and five different perceptions about life in this post. We had an invaluable discussion with the doctors Shaimaa Al Najjar, Fatima Al Olaimi, Khadijah Al Elaj, Ahmad Al Hashemi, and Maryam Shehab. We touched on various matters like religion, people, self-improvement, career, the things that matter the most for a human being, and more importantly, the advice they never forget. We share them with you in the order they took place.
It is not advice, but a lifestyle.
Shaimaa Al Najjar is a neurologist completing her Ph.D. in Kuwait to fulfill her life's dream. Shaimaa grew up with a passion for medicine, civic, and social duties. She got involved with several groups to help people with down syndrome and other people in need. "I love kids, giving, and helping people in general," she says. Shaimaa loves her job because of "that moment when the patient came to me after five years to tell me that she still is grateful to what I did for her when she was in the Intensive Care Unit," she says.
Shaimaa lived in a relatively religious Muslim society, building a solid belief in God that shaped her lifestyle, thoughts, and way of living. She took a deep breath and paused for a moment of silence before she shares the advice with us. She believes, "It is not advice, but a lifestyle." Shaimaa has gone through several incidents in life that confirmed her trust in God. She was one step to getting something she wants, but could not get. She prayed for God, He intervened, and His will changed the circumstances. That reaffirmed her belief in the Hadith Qudsi, "أنا عند ظن عبدي بي" or as translated in English, "I am to my servant as he thinks of Me."
Shaimaa always goes back to God, whether she is happy or sad. So if you are going through a tough time, do not say, "I will be patient, but say Hamdulillah," she says. "When you are content, God always gives you what you want and more," Shaimaa believes.
They think as if the good was scarce. They do not realize that those good things will only happen for them when they wish others good.
Fatima Al Olaimi is a family doctor in her second-year residency. Fatima has three more years to get her Ph.D. from Kuwait University. She specialized in family medicine because she did not have a specific interest. Family medicine provided her with a comprehensive view of the different medical fields. In addition, Fatima is "social. I am very social," she says. And that fits the medical field, especially being a family doctor, as "communication skills are very critical," she adds.
Fatima grew up as a very social kid. She enjoyed having a big circle of friends and continuous conversations with the people around her. That allowed her to connect with people from all different backgrounds; she "can click with everyone. I can have a conversation with people from all personalities," she says. But, unfortunately, that also allowed her to see how some individuals did not want good for other people around them. "They think as if the good was scarce. They do not realize that those good things will only happen for them when they wish others good," she says. Fatima experienced that first-hand during her time in school. Some colleagues would hide material and information about their study because they felt the competition and did not want other students to score high.
On the other hand, Fatima saw good things happen for her when she wished her friends and the people she knows well. She was afraid that one of the rotations overlaps with this challenging year. Still, she never wanted to have a better experience than her colleagues. She wished the same for everyone and saw the results. "Wish for others what you wish for yourself," Fatima advises.
You never realize that value, but when significant changes take place. As a result, you are missing tiny details that you do not give attention to in your life.
Khadijah Al Elaj is a doctor in clinical biochemistry and metabolic medicine waiting to get her Ph.D. in a matter of a few months. Khadijah is married to a loving partner who also is a doctor specializing in oncology. She has two kids: Abdullah and Faisal. She is attached to her small family and loves them the most. During the Covid-19 pandemic, "I missed them, and I got attached to them and started appreciating them more," she says with a deep breath.
Khadijah grew up close to her mom as the first kid with two boys after her. She studied in a nun's school, where she learned discipline in life. Her motto is "work hard, achieve, progress, and reward," she says. Her passion for medicine grew up with her as a child. She used to watch Kuwait TV's show "Salamatik" and act as a doctor since she was a kid, which planted the seed for being a doctor. "Everything happens at God's will, but I set my goals, I plan, and march towards them. Failure is something that happens; I changed my board, but what matters is the plan, organization, and discipline," she says. She believes that people can acquire and nurture these skills and characteristics from their experiences and their environments.
Khadijah lived a very fast-paced life as a disciplined doctor. Then, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, her life slowed down. That allowed Khadijah to reflect on her life and think for a moment about the things she appreciates the most and realize the value of quality time. "Our life has a fast rhythm. We are losing so many times that we do not realize how valuable these times are," she says. "You never realize that value, but when significant changes take place. As a result, you are missing tiny details that you do not give attention to in your life.," she adds. "Slow down," Khadijah advises.
Khadijah believes that people took their conversations with their moms, morning coffee on their way to work, quality time with partners, and kids' bedtime stories for granted. Khadija does not care about the length of time she spends with her loved ones as much as she cares about the quality of that time. She started paying more attention to her mom in their conversations and spending more quality time with her partner. Khadijah now ensures twice the love and warmth when she tells the bedtime story to Abdullah and Faisal. "You only realize that when your life slows down or you are in Phuket," Khadijah says.
We do something, go through an encounter, behave in a certain way, talk in a certain way, say certain things, and as a result, there are consequences to our actions.
Ahmad Al Hashemi is a senior specialist physician at Al Adan Hospital in Kuwait specializing in endocrine and metabolism. Ahmad was raised in a family of doctors, growing up with a father who passed him the love of medicine and technology. His father wrote commands on sticky notes and stuck them on the personal computer. Ahmad used to sit down, try the commands, and "bring down the computer every once in a while," he says.
Ahmad grew his passion for technology faster than his one for medicine. Still, his father, a persuasive man, was able to attract him to complete his medical studies before pursuing a career in technology. "Well, we need people in medicine who are very good in technology. So you should go to medical school and bring your technical skills with you," his father said. This father-son relationship gave Ahmad the foundation of the advice he lived by. His father once said to him, "When you interact with people, be close to them when they need you, and try not to burden them when you are in need."
As a technical guy, Ahmad believes in the power of feedback. "When you have encounters with people, and not just people, but also your reflections on yourself, the most important thing is to get feedback. That is the only way we can get better," Ahmad says. "We do something, go through an encounter, behave in a certain way, talk in a certain way, say certain things, and as a result, there are consequences to our actions. Feedback is taking those consequences, going back to ourselves, and asking ourselves why did we do what we did and how can we do it better," he adds.
Ahmad believes that it is hard to get feedback in today's society and economy, primarily because it relies on knowledge. Therefore, a person has to be self-aware and active to get feedback. "We are not tightening screws; we are not trying to drive a car; we are trying to do knowledge work. So you have to sit with yourself and be active in pursuing it," Ahmad believes.
Sometimes there is a point when you need to realize to move on or take a step in a different direction. But for the most part, sometimes you need to hold on one more second, one more day, one more month, or one more year.
Maryam Shehab is a dentist, singer, and songwriter born to a handsome Kuwaiti father and a beautiful Japanese mother. Maryam blossomed in two cultures, has a different delicate look, and speaks three languages, which made her grow up as a unique girl by all means. She was known for her Japanese roots. However, she wanted to be known as Maryam. She invested in herself and worked hard to stand out as Maryam for what she is. She was active, social, and scored high. She went to public schools during the week and Japanese schools on the weekends. Her parents taught her "to accept, appreciate, and not to intimidate other people with their differences," she says.
Maryam is a rising talent. She plays sports, has a black belt in Karate, and was born with a beautiful voice and authentic musical talent. She is a musician with 162 thousand subscribers and 10.4 million views on YouTube. All of that required her to put in the time, effort, and dedication to her goals, which was not easy for her as she gets bored quickly. "I do it; I like it; I get the most out of it; I learn something, and then next. That is it for me," she says. She judges her progress fast, "and that is me being impatient," she adds. However, she learned that things require time for her to see the progress. She refers to a Japanese proverb her mom used to say. The saying said, "石の上にも三年" or as in its literal translation in English, "3-years on top of a rock." The adage formed the foundation of her advice. "You need to sit tight on a rock for 3-years to see the change," she says. "Do not let go, yet," Maryam advises. Having that in mind allowed her to experience and jump between things, but not as quickly as before. Maryam now allows things to take their time to develop, progress, and achieve the intended results. "I like to remind myself not to let go just yet," she says.
Maryam does not have an answer to the question of when to let go or not. A lot of the times, "when I have gone through moments like that, I have had people reminded me of things that made me conclude not to let go yet. So I seek people's advice and ask them; at the end of the day, I make my conclusions and form my own decisions, but people around you inspire you," she says. For example, Maryam was once tired from working on her music and sharing it with the public. "I enjoyed it personally, but I did not see the point of publishing it," she says. Maryam wanted to avoid all the hassle of doing so, but her friend advised her to keep it. Then, one day, "it went viral," she says. All her experiences inspire her advice, but that incident has explicitly reaffirmed her belief in not letting things go yet. "Sometimes there is a point when you need to realize to move on or take a step in a different direction. But for the most part, sometimes you need to hold on one more second, one more day, one more month, or one more year," Maryam believes.
Another example is when Maryam was getting her degree. She came to a moment where she was taking time to reflect, and "I think people might be lying to you if they tell you they always know what they are doing hundred percent. People do not always know a hundred percent whether it is the right thing to do or not, but you do it, you push through, and that is why you do not let go. You wait for a little bit longer," Maryam says.