Nawal Al-Tamimi, MD, Fachaerzt is a 2014-2015 Hamad Medical Corporation-IHI Fellow. She is a nuclear medicine physician and a radiation protection specialist at Hamad Medical Corporation in Doha, Qatar. She shared these reflections on her fellowship with Vicky Minden of IHI’s marketing and communications team.
Nawal Al-Tamimi, MD, Fachaerzt
2014-2015 Hamad Medical Corporation-IHI Fellow
What brought you here, to your IHI Fellowship?
My background is as a nuclear medicine physician and a radiation protection specialist. I did my residency program in Heidelberg University in Germany, then went back to Qatar in 2011 to work in Hamad General Hospital. During my work there as a consultant, trying to have a close relationship with patients, I started to realize that what is more important than the health care we provide the patients is: Is the patient satisfied? Is the patient going home pleased with the service we provided?
This was something that on a daily basis attracted my attention because at times I used to hear patients complaining, not happy with their experience because of things like long waiting times or because nobody explained a procedure properly. Of course I also heard good things, from patients who were pleased. But I couldn’t help thinking, what makes these other patients unhappy? How can I improve their experience during their visit to my hospital? How can I make all of my patients’ experience better?
I realized that I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t have the knowledge, the methods I needed. I knew there was a problem but I didn’t know how to solve it. So I went to my chairman of radiology and talked to him about it. I told him, you know, I have the time and the ability to learn something new to be able to help the organization I work within. I want to have more training in quality—something that will help me give my patients a better experience in the hospital.
This was in summer 2013. My chairman told me that Hamad Medical Corporation has a partnership with IHI that provides the opportunity for two fellowships at IHI every year, so why don’t I apply? I was surprised and very pleased. I didn’t know about this partnership; it was only two years old. So I told him, of course! I did the application and had my interview in Orlando in December 2013 at the National Forum I was accepted, and here I am.
What's one thing you've learned already?
Lots of things. It’s a package of learning. On a personal level, I have changed the way I see problems now. I know that I can solve problems, and how to start that process. As physicians, we are so focused on the disease and how we treat it. But now I have a broader vision. I can see that when I want to treat a patient I have to think about him as a whole person. He’s a human being, who has a life with social, emotional, family, and financial factors that might impact his health and well-being. Even if I can’t solve all of his problems, at least I can now be sure I consider those other factors responsible for his illness and try my best to help.
I have also learned how to start an improvement project, how to use the Model for Improvement, which is so valuable. Before, back home, I had started to do some courses online through the IHI Open School, but it was just an introduction. Since I moved to Cambridge, I have learned knowledge and methods in the field of improvement science and developed skills to apply them to solve a problem in my organization or even my life. So his learning how to make changes toward improvement is the second best thing I will take with me when I go home.
What's something that has surprised you?
Before 2013 I had never visited the US, so this is my very first time here. And I’ll tell you, it was scary when I arrived here. Everything is so different from Qatar. All I knew about the US was what you see on TV or hear in the media. I had never even been in contact with Americans, in my work or personally, so I really wasn’t sure if I would be able to live in this country.
But when I came in the summer of 2014 I started to realize, Americans are just like people anywhere. In fact they are very nice, even on the street; people want to help you. Also, I was also not expecting to see muslim women working everywhere—in banks, stores, and supermarkets. I thought they would be forced to take their hijab off before working here. But no, they can be who they are. And that was exciting for me. You hear so much about inequity, and I know that people talk about this issue sometimes. But from my short experience in the US what I see is people from every background, race, and religion all working together. It seems that if you are competent, you can do a job you care about.
Another small thing that has really surprised me is to see people here “jaywalking.” You can’t do that in Qatar because driving there is so crazy! People drive very fast. You would be injured if you tried to do that. The drivers here seem tolerant; they will stop the car and let a pedestrian pass.
What are you most excited about?
First of all, I am very excited that I am pregnant, with my first baby! It’s a blessing. The other thing is, my career will be changed when I go back. I will be not only a physician treating patients and diagnosing their disease through images. Now I will be working on the level of the Hamad Medical Corporation to improve health care anywhere and everywhere, not just in the radiology department.
I’m also excited to have just learned that I was nominated to be the representative of the Nuclear Medicine for the state of Qatar, a post that was occupied for the last 10 years by another senior colleague.
My dream is that one day I’ll work in Hamad Medical Corporation in a way to be able to contribute not only on the organizational level but also on a national level. This is all based on my fellowship; without the fellowship I wouldn’t have these opportunities.