Allocation Assist

Interview with Dr Alan Mulvihill – Consultant Peadiatric Ophthalmologist at Al Jalila Children’s Hospital, Dubai

Interview with Dr Alan Mulvihill - Consultant Peadiatric Ophthalmologist at Al Jalila Children's Hospital, Dubai

Dr Alan Mulvihill is a UK-trained Consultant in Paediatric Ophthalmology. Dr Alan is a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists. His extensive training includes Paediatric Ophthalmology fellowships at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. Dr Alan was Consultant in Edinburgh for over 20 years before relocating to Dubai in January 2023.

At Allocation Assist, we always like to keep in touch with our doctors that we work with. It was great to catch up with Dr. Alan, to find out about his experience since relocating to Dubai.

Can you tell us about your training and experience, and why you choose to specialise in Paediatric Ophthalmology?

In the early part of my career, while deciding which area to specialise in, I found that I enjoyed both clinical medicine and surgery. Ophthalmology suited me well, as it involves an interesting mix of medical and surgical work, including trauma and neurology. At first, I hadn’t decided on paediatrics but I wanted to be skilled in treating patients of all ages, including children. I also realised that there was a demand for paediatric-trained Ophthalmologists. This led me onto further training, including a Paediatric Ophthalmology and strabismus (squint) fellowship at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, and another year’s fellowship in Paediatric Ophthalmology at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada.

I was a Consultant Ophthalmologist in Edinburgh, at the The Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion from November 2002 to January 2023. My particular areas of interest are complex paediatric and adult squint surgery, retinopathy of prematurity, neuro-ophthalmology, and paediatric trauma. In early January 2023, I relocated to work at Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital in Dubai.

Why did you decide to relocate, and what in particular attracted you to Dubai?

I wanted a change and a new challenge. My department and colleagues in Edinburgh were absolutely great, but the challenges of working in the NHS were increasing. The UAE healthcare system is well resourced and highly-skilled and trained consultants are sought after to build up new services to meet the increasing demand. The UK specialist consultant training is particularly recognised here, for its breadth, quality of training and uniform standard. Dubai also has great travel links and is not too far from the UK. My family visits me regularly – they can easily fly out to Dubai for a week or so, and it is a great place to have a holiday. Al Jalila, being the only specialist children’s hospital in the

UAE, was a great fit for my skills and experience. Working here also enables me to save more for retirement.

Have you found many differences working in the UAE, compared to the UK?

I have not found that many differences. However, due to the nature of the health sector here, patients have a wide choice of hospitals, in both the public and private sector. The benefit for patients is that they can get seen and treated quickly, but referral pathways are not as streamlined as in the NHS. Al Jalila Speciality Children’s Hospital, part of Dubai Health in the government sector, has highly qualified specialists and great facilities in a child-friendly environment. It is still a relatively new hospital, having opened in 2016, but it is already

established in advanced tertiary and paediatric care in the region. A new multidisciplinary charity clinic initiative was recently launched at Al Jalila Childrens Hospital. The ‘Hope Clinic’ aims to provide essential healthcare services to children who have difficulty accessing care. Patients who are seen at Al Jalila and have problems with insurance approvals or funding can apply to Al Jalila Charitable Foundation. Al Jalila Foundation is actively supporting funding for

children undergoing life-saving treatments and vital life-changing surgeries. It has been a good experience building up the Ophthalmology department and I have been very busy. The department is growing and I will soon have other Ophthalmology Consultant colleagues to share the out-of-hours on-call.

Does the variety of conditions you see here differ?

I treat a wide range of conditions, with many patients requiring highly complex specialist treatment. We treat babies and children, including premature babies in the NICU, with complex pathologies, such as rare congenital conditions and syndromes. I also do a fair amount of more routine paediatric ophthalmology, as UAE guidelines require all children to be seen by ophthalmologists, rather than optometrists, even for fairly routine visual problems. We also see a relatively high volume of paediatric ophthalmology trauma coming to Al Jalila, due to accidents. My work is varied and interesting and I need to use a broad range of skills. Paediatric ophthalmology as a speciality tends to be quite cooperative and collegiate. I have got to know my colleagues in other hospitals, and we discuss difficult cases, making referrals whenever required.

What are the best ways you find to network here?

Since coming to Dubai, I have worked on developing contacts, getting to know other specialists and their particular skills and training. I have found that conferences and meetings are valuable, not only for education, but also for networking. The coffee break times can turn out to be just as important as the seminars. Getting to know colleagues is especially helpful in the UAE, for both making and receiving referrals.

Do you have opportunities to get involved in teaching and research, here in Dubai?

Yes, there are opportunities for both teaching and research here. We have Ophthalmology residents in Dubai Health hospitals, but currently they are mainly at Dubai Hospital and primary healthcare centres. Hopefully we will soon get residents coming to Al Jalila. This would be a great opportunity for them to get hands-on training and see interesting cases under close supervision. Currently one of the residents is helping complete an audit on orbital cellulitis, with a view to establishing a written protocol on management of this condition for Dubai Health.

How are you enjoying the lifestyle in Dubai?

I do enjoy life in Dubai. However, it is possible to get carried away with a more lavish lifestyle here. While I do treat myself and my family occasionally, I maintain a sensible level of spending in order to save. Dubai has a great range of options for places to visit and eat, with some reasonably priced places with great food.

What advice would you give to other consultants considering relocating?

The UAE is a great place both for work and saving for the future. You will need to work hard and communicate well with patients, as well as respect the local culture. It can take some time to adapt to a different system. As I mentioned before, it helps to build good relationships with colleagues, in your own and other specialties. There is great potential to save here but it is important to get good financial advice on planning for the future and retirement.

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