Mafraq Hospital appoints World’s only Emirati ocular Oncologist

Press release
Published March 19th, 2012 - 08:42 GMT

Mafraq Hospital, which is owned and operated by the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company PJSC (SEHA), today announced the appointment of Dr. Khaled Abuhaleeqa - the world’s first and only Emirati doctor to specialise in ocular oncology.

Filling the roles of consultant ophthalmologist, oculoplastic surgeon, neuro-ophthalmologist and ocular oncologist for the hospital’s Ophthalmology Department, Dr. Abuhaleeqa is among just 150 estimated specialists worldwide who holds the necessary training to treat rare cancers. He recently moved back to the UAE from Canada where he earned his doctorate and subspecialist qualifications in ocular oncology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.  During his residency, he had the opportunity to work for one of the highest ranking institutes for cancer research in the world – the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Canada. Following this, he served as a fellow in ocular oncology, oculoplastics and neuro-ophthalmology at several hospitals and health institutions in Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Mohamed Yaman, Chief Medical Officer Mafraq Hospital, commented: “Mafraq Hospital has established itself as a regional leader in the healthcare sector; our physicians are among the best in their specialist fields with international qualifications and world class expertise. We are delighted to welcome Dr. Abuhaleeqa to Mafraq Hospital, and we consider him a strong asset to our team. His expertise and unique skill set have allowed us to reach out to patients who would previously have had no access to this level of care.

“Emiratization is extremely important to Mafraq Hospital – a significant number of the hospital's highly skilled physicians are UAE Nationals. These exceptional medical professionals serve as strong role models not only for Emirati Nationals, but for all UAE residents. We are keen to continue to support the accomplishments of the UAE National population, and believe this is crucial to the continued success of the Nation’s healthcare sector.

Affecting the interior and exterior tissue of the eye, ophthalmic and orbital cancers account for an estimated five percent of diagnosed cancer cases across the UAE, and nearly six per cent worldwide, according to local medical experts. If identified and treated properly, most patients can expect a high quality of life after treatment, but early detection is critical. 

Dr. Abuhaleeqa explained: “Ocular cancer is a relatively unknown disease. In the UAE, awareness remains low and patients may defer treatment due to fear and uncertainty. However, the larger problem lies in the fact that many doctors are not trained to properly diagnose such a rare form of cancer; until now, patients have had to travel abroad to undergo treatment. As the only Emirati doctor to specialise in ocular oncology, and in fact, the only specialist currently practicing in the UAE, I take my responsibility very seriously.”

While further research is being conducted by The Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD) to determine the exact incidence and prevalence of ocular cancer in the UAE, Dr. Abuhaleeqa has already completed ten ocular surgeries since joining Mafraq Hospital late in 2011, and expects to complete as many as 40 more in the coming months.

“I am both honored and excited to be returning to the UAE – a nation that has spent considerable time and effort developing its healthcare sector over the past 40 years. Incredible accomplishments and triumphs have been realised in this time, which holds the UAE in good stead for future success in this industry,” explained Dr. Abuhaleeqa.

The Mafraq Hospital Ophthalmology Department currently staffs a total of 22 doctors and nurses and treats approximately 80 patients annually.

Background Information

Mafraq Hospital

Mafraq Hospital is a 451-bed referral treatment institution, located about 35 km south-east of the UAE capital and serving one of the fastest-growing areas in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. With around 2,000 professional staff, Mafraq's services include medicine, obstetrics, and pediatrics, as well as surgical and critical care services that support the trauma program. It also operates the largest burn unit in the country.

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