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Amira Elsayed Sunday, December 2, 2012 Marks Street Community Ce nter in Orlando, Florida Esam Alhadi, Interviewer and Translator for University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries Edited by Jardee Transcription Also present, Richard Saltzburg Alhadi: Thank you Dr. Amira Elsayed. It is great that we are here with you. My name is Esam Alhadi. I am a lecturer at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Today is December 2, 2012, and it is now 12:34 PM. We are having this interview at the Marks Street Center in the city of Orlando, in the stat e of Florida. Again, we are happy to have you with us. It will be great if you may begin by giving us a general idea about the early period of your life such as full name, place of birth, and a ny other details relati ng to your early life history. Elsayed: Hello and thank you very much for choosing me to be a par ticipant in this project. My name is Dr. Amira Mahmoud Elsayed. I am orig inally from Cairo. I finished my college education at the Kasr Al Ainy Medical School in 1981. I always had the dream of coming to America to continue with my me dical career in this great country. After finishing my medical school study, I worked for a short period in Egypt and in other Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia as an obstetrician for seven years. Then I came here. I encountered many difficulties when I first arrived here. Although I had my medical education in English, understanding the Ameri can accent was a big hassle for me. I also had to start all over by studying th e subjects that I ha d previously studie d, and do a lot of testing before getting certified. It was very ha rd to get in the medical practice here and to find a place to do the residency. It took me three years to get over these problems and I had the opportunity to do my residency in Penns ylvania in a very exce llent place. I then
had the opportunity to work in different stat es such as North Carolina and Georgia. I came back to Florida because it is the first state that I came to when I arrived in America for the first time. It is al so a very beautiful state. Alhadi: When did you arrive in Florida? Elsayed: I came here two months ago. I am cu rrently one of the family physicians at Florida Medical Hospital Group and I work in Winter Garden. My office will be open on December 26 right after Christmas. They are currently working on it. It is a beautiful office and I will share it with another family medicine doctor. There will be a huge multi-specialty center that will be open in the same area during the coming two years. They will also take a vote on December sixth on a new hospital that they want to open in Winter Garden, and they need one extra vote and then the hospital will be approved. It will be a 200-bed hospital and will serve the community in the surrounding areas. I hope it goes through. Alhadi: Why did you choose Florid a to be your new home state? Elsayed: This is the first state I came to when I first migrated to America. I like the weather and the landscape here. I like the way houses are designed in Florida. The weather here is similar to the weather in Egypt. These are the thi ngs I like about Florida. Alhadi: Let us talk a little a bout medical practice. Would you be able to draw a comparison in the medical practice between Cairo and Americ a since you had the opportunity to work in the two areas? Where do you find similarities and differences? Elsayed: This is a very impor tant question. I can say that we have very good physicians in Egypt, but we are always short of modern medi cal technologies. The nursing staff is also less qualified compared to what we have here. This doesnt apply to every single one in
the nursing field. The well-organized system here makes it easy for doctors to do their work. Although I hate to say negative things about medical practices in Egypt, but the fact is that we have highly qualified physicians and the me dical practice is very good but they lack advanced technology and the highly organized protocols and policy such as the ones we have here. I am talking about the period when I was practicing medicine in Egypt. I cant speak to peri ods when I wasnt there. Alhadi: This last statement relates to my next question. Do you mean that you currently have no connection with medical prac tice and physicians in Egypt? Elsayed: I attend conferences ther e. I gave a lecture at one of these conferences at Sharm ElSheikh a number of years ago. All the lectures were very good and informative. Again, I cant make a judgment on medical practice in Egypt at the current time but I can make a reference to a personal experience that is very close to me. My father had to have heart surgery here in America in 2000. Everything went unimaginably smooth and he received very good care. My fathers morale was very excellent during the days of the surgery [and recovery (Ed.)]. Later in 2007 or 2008, my father was hospitalized in Egypt and he felt the huge difference in the way medical attent ion is provided and in the lack of quality nursing services that he recei ved. I am not blaming anyone. Hospitals are less prepared and the government has no more resources to provide better tec hnology than what is already there. Alhadi: I want to move on and ask you about your field of specialty. Elsayed: When I first came here, my plan was to become a gynecologist with a focus on cancer. Thanks to God that I didnt go into that field. I had the opportunity to do my residency as an obstetrician in the family medicine field. This has been the area of my work during
my early years in the medical practice. When I started my work in family medicine, I liked it very much and became happy with it. I found that fa mily medicine gives more awareness of all other areas of medical specialties such as internal medicine, cardiology, dermatology and optometry. I had no strong connection to these areas when I was a practicing obstetrician. I am very happy with my work in this field. Family practice is known in a limited number of countries. It is very well-known and highly advanced here in the USA. I recently had the opportunity to work for the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi which is managed by the Clev eland Clinic in Ohio. When Cleveland Clinic came to the UAE in 2007 to manage th is hospital, nobody in the UAE or the entire Arab world had any idea about family medici ne. We started a campaign to make people aware of the meaning and benefits of family medicine. We explained to them how family medicine impacts a wide range of family -related medical, moral, and psychological issues. We explained to them that through fa mily medicine, we will be able to check on children and everybody in the family. I am very proud [i.e., thankful (Ed.)] that God guided me to become a family physician. Alhadi: Is it correct to say that this field of medicine is not well known in the Arab countries? Elsayed: That is true, alt hough it is getting to be known now It has been well-known in America for quite some time. It has been known in England even before America. It arrived a bit late in the Arab countries, and continues to be an unfamiliar field in Egypt. There is even a problem with giving it a specif ic term in Arabic. It is not clear to the public what the term family physician means. We are working bit by bit to make the public understand what a family physician is. We try to explain that fa mily medicine is a
medical field in the same way other fields ar e, such as internal medicine, and that we work with children and women. Alhadi: What is the term that is generally agreed on in the Arab world for this field? Elsayed: They call it family medicine and th e person who works in it is called a family physician. However, it still remains to be not widely known. This is particularly true in the case of elder generations. As I mentioned earlier, I was in the UAE for the past five years. I was the chair of a hospital womens house committee. One of the activities that we kept doing was delivering a series of public lectures to women as part of an annual awareness campaign. Our main focus was to explain to them the role of a family physician. Thanks to God that in the five-yea r period that I spent there, the role of the family physician became clear to no less than 90% of the population there. Alhadi: I would like to hear more about your experience in Abu Dhabi and what do you think about medical services there and what role the government is playing to deliver these services compared with medical services he re in America? I am asking this question because of your experience in medical work in Egypt, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, and here in the USA. This is clearly an internati onal experience and I w ould like to hear some comparison between the different segments of this international experience. Elsayed: Let me tell you something. UAE is one of the great countries, and people of that country are among the top dedicated people that I have ever dealt with. I am very sad that I had to leave that country two months ago. The feeling I had when I left is like the feeling of leaving my own family behind. Medical practice is the same everywhere. That could be compared to the case of housewives. You may find a housewife that is very good at housework, another one might be not too good and not too bad, while a third
one might be terrible at housework. It all goes back to how housework is perceived and conducted. In talking about medicine in A bu Dhabi, I would say that the work done by Cleveland Medical Clinic at Sheikh Khalifa Me dical Hospital was superior. This is one of the great and most advanced hospitals in the UAE. They give unlimited attention and support to medical care and medical work. Their medical technology is extremely advanced compared to the one we have in E gypt. It is highly orga nized and has a very good and qualified nursing staff. However, it is still less than what we have here in America if I have to make such a comparison. This is one of the things that pushed me to come back here. I like to be in a place where there is an established and organized system in place. That is what we lack in the Arab countries. Alhadi: What about your experience in Saudi Arabia? Elsayed: That was in 1993. When I look back and think of the medical practice there at the time, I still find it very advanced. I worked as an obstetrician in a hospital at the King Abdulaziz Naval Base. The hospital was prep ared following the American standards. This was during my first five years in Juba il. I then moved to King Abdulaziz air force base in Dhahran during my last two year s. It was a very good medical practice experience for me. I was working in the fiel d of obstetrics and gyn ecology. The medical care services there were even above my imagination. Alhadi: How long did you stay in Saudi Arabia? Elsayed: I stayed there for seven years. Alhadi: Did you go from Egypt to Saudi Arabia? Elsayed: Yes, and from there to America.
Alhadi: We want to hear more about your experi ence in America. Can you tell us a little bit about other doctors of Arab de scent here in Orlando? I kno w there is a large number of them here. How do they deal with, and conn ect to, each other? Is there any form of association that brings al l Arab doctors together? Elsayed: I have been here for only two months. This short peri od disqualifies me to talk about this subject. I am still trying to open my office and to get my status with Florida Hospital Medical Group straight. I can t speak to that. I worked in Georgia and in North Carolina. There were many doctors of Arab descent in Georgia. We dealt with each other very professionally. We transfer pa tients to any doctor who is known to be wellqualified and have a good reputa tion. I may be able to give you an answer to this question one year from now. Alhadi: How was it in Georgia? Elsayed: I was in Lawrenceville, which is a twen ty-minute drive from downtown Atlanta. There were many Arabs there. I didnt have too many opportunities to interact with Arabs there. But I referred some of my patients to those who I knew to be good professionals and will do what is needed to take good care of my patients. When this happens, this encourages me to deal with that doctor mo re and to have more communication with him or her. I have a professional commitment that I refer my patients to any doctor that I know will serve them better, regardless of th eir ethnicity or background. Being of Arab descent doesnt mean I have to refer my patient s to doctors of Arab descent only. All that I care about is that a person is hi ghly professional and trustworthy. Alhadi: I want to ask you a que stion that might be a bit personal. Do you have any person from your own family who works in the medical field?
Elsayed: Unfortunately, none of my three children want to go in to this field. The youngest one is twenty-one years old and studies psychol ogy. This is the closet among them to the medical field. I have a sister who is also a doctor and currently lives in Bahrain. She worked as an obstetrician, but now she is also in family medicine. There they call them primary care physicians. My sisters husband is also an obstetrician. Alhadi: Other than your son who studies psychology, what are the others doing? Elsayed: One of them is studying mechanical engineering and other one obtained his degree in finance and currently works in Abu Dhabi. Alhadi: What is the reason that none of your sons wanted to go into the medical field? Elsayed: They noticed that I read and study t oo much. Medicine requires you to always read, not only for testing purposes but also to k eep up to date with the new discoveries, medicines, and technology in the field. This is done at the expense of family time and my sons did not want to go into such experience. Alhadi: Did you try to convince them to go into the medical field or di d you leave it up to them? Elsayed: I tried with my younger son very much and he was almost convinced. However, I always tell my sons that they can be whatever they want to be rega rdless of what field they may choose, but they have to be successful in what they choose. Alhadi: Is there anybody else in the family be sides you and your sister working in the medical field? Elsayed: In addition to my sister and myself, I also have a cousin from my mothers side and other distant relatives from my mothers side who are also doctors. My mothers cousin is one of the most famous doctors in Egypt. His name is Dr. Samir Sadig and he is an endocrinology specialist.
Alhadi: What was the driving force behind your decision to join the medical field? Elsayed: This is a very good question. I reme mber very well the long pe riod we spent in Italy. My father was the cultural at tach at the Egyptian Embassy in Rome. We never had the opportunity to return back to Egypt during the first four years for us there. My grandfather, may God rest his soul in peace, cam e to visit us there. I had no relatives or friends to socialize with or to go and visit in that country. When my grandfather came to visit us, I was about nine or ten years old. The feeling of loneliness I had at the time brought me very close to my grandfather when he was with us. I feel like I am looking at his face at this moment. We used to play with him and he carried us on his shoulders. He became sick and we provided medical care fo r him in Italy. He went back to Egypt and died one month later. Th is event had a very strong impact on me. That is when I decided I should become a docto r in order to help any family members who may need medical attention. Alhadi: This sounds like a very interesting expe rience. Do you speak Italian since you had the opportunity to live there? Elsayed: I studied in Italy up to the third grade and that gave me the opportunity to become very fluent in Italian. But as you know with th e case of any language, if you dont use it you lose it and that is what had happened with my Italian language. Alhadi: Dr. Amira, I understand that medicine is a field that is witnessing new developments on a daily basis. I also believe that doctors who dont keep up with the new developments in the field will be left behind. In your case, wh at do you do in order to keep up to date with such fast pace developments? I assume you, like all other doctors, work long hours with your patients every day.
Elsayed: You just said it. I always stay cl ose to the main medical references and the new research in the field. As you know, family medi cine is a field that is related to many subareas. As a specialist in the field of wo mens health, I handle many womens health cases such as breast cancer, osteoporosis, cervical cancer, and many others. There are many books and references in these areas that I always read in order to stay informed and up to date. I also follow the new research a nd articles that are publis hed in these areas. Moreover, working every day will also teach you new things. Each case is unique and each case teaches new things. I may sometime s need to consult with somebody else if I have a case that I am not familiar with. If, fo r instance, I have an unfamiliar heart disease case, I will contact a cardiologi st to see what ideas they might propose. I also keep attending CMEcontinual medical educationregularly. It is also important to know that all family physicians have to be re-cer tified every seven years. During each sevenyear period, we try to stay up to date a nd read articles and books and attend CME. Alhadi: We are very grateful for your sharing with us this rich and exciting experience. We are very happy that you agreed to give us this in terview. Another ques tion that just came to my mind is about your contribution to today s event here at Marks Street Community Center. Would you please tell us about your role in this event today? Elsayed: As I mentioned earlier, I was the chair of a womens health committee at Sheikh Khalifa Hospital managed by Cleveland Clinic After coming here, I decided to get involved with the Arab community. I know that there are many Arab women here who dont speak English fluently. I decided to come and be part of the community. I have some communication between myself and the comm ittee here. I have been selected to be the health director of the Arab American Society. Today, I am part of the Florida
Medical hospital Group and I will be giving two lectures toda y about vaccines and breast cancer. I try to make myself available to th e women and elders in the Arab community. Alhadi: I wish you all the best. We hope that we will always hear good news about you and your work. This is a very impressive biography. Elsayed: Thank you very much for giving me th e opportunity to talk to you through this very exciting interview. Thanks. [END OF INTERVIEW]