Allocation Assist

Interview with Dr Richard Baker, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City, Abu Dhabi.

Dr Richard Baker is a British Plastic Surgery Consultant who relocated to Abu Dhabi in October 2023. Dr Richard is a Fellow of The Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS Plastic Surgery), a Member of The British Society of Surgery of the Hand (BSSH), The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), and The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS). He has also obtained certification in Cosmetic Surgery (RCS Eng), and the European Diploma of Hand Surgery. Dr Richard received his research MD from the University of London in 2008, for his research into insulin and its properties for reducing post-surgical scarring. His clinical expertise covers hand and wrist surgery, trauma surgery, paediatric plastic surgery (hypospadia surgery) and cosmetic surgery.

At Allocation Assist, we like to keep in touch with our doctors after relocation. We were excited to find out about Dr Richard’s experience of relocating to Abu Dhabi.

Dr Richard, thank you for making time in your busy schedule. Can you start by telling us about your specialist training and experience in the UK?

After graduating from Cambridge University Medical School in 2000, I underwent specialist training at the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, rotating to the Royal Free Hospital, London, and Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford. After passing the FRCS in 2012, I completed specialist fellowships in Hand and Wrist Surgery at Nottingham University Hospitals, and Reconstructive Cosmetic Surgery at the University Hospitals of Leicester. In 2015, I was appointed Consultant Plastic Surgeon at Wexham Park Hospital, becoming Clinical Lead for the department in 2020. In addition, I started a private Plastic Surgery practice based in Windsor and Wexham.

What were your reasons for relocating to the UAE?

Apart from seeking a new challenge professionally, I wanted a better quality of life for myself and my family. The United Arab Emirates has a lot of advantages in this respect. There is no income tax on salaries, which enables you to save more. The UAE is a well-connected travel hub, not too far from the UK, compared to places such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Here, as in other Gulf countries, the British specialist consultant training is well respected. Unlike in the USA, there is no need to take further medical licensing examinations when coming from the UK. Also, English speakers do not encounter a language barrier. I am

learning Arabic, but it is not a requirement to work here. English is widely spoken and interpreters are available whenever required. The economy in the UAE is booming, and there is generally a positive atmosphere and outlook amongst residents.

Why did you choose to come to Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City in


My family and I like Abu Dhabi for its family-friendly lifestyle. While it may not be as lively as Dubai, there is still a lot to do and the city offers a great quality of life. When the opportunity at Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City came up, it was ideal. SSMC is one of the UAE’s largest tertiary government hospitals, fully-equipped with cutting-edge facilities and technology, enabling world-class healthcare provision. It is a regional centre of excellence for trauma and

complex surgeries. The hospital trains medical students from local universities, as well as residents and fellows. SMCC is also a centre for research, which allows me to continue to be involved in teaching, mentoring and research here.

How has your relocation experience been?

Professionally, the transition has gone smoothly. Of course, coming to a new place, you need to get used to a new system and be aware of cultural differences. I work in a well-established, busy department, and all my colleagues have been very supportive. There is great morale within the hospital and it is easy to get things done.

Has your surgical practice changed since relocating to SSMC?

As the hospital is a major trauma centre, I am involved in a lot more trauma cases, including complex reconstructive surgery, microsurgery and free flaps. I do more hand surgery for more trauma than elective cases. I am also able to continue with paediatric plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery. Working in a centre such as SSMC, it helps to be flexible, as although each surgeon has their specialist interests, we need to be able to cover each other when on leave. My work is invigorating and I am enjoying having more variety and doing more

complex surgical cases. The UK plastic surgery training is quite long and extensive, and this has given me a broad range of skills and experience in different subspecialties. I have found that I have been able to adapt my practice to use my training and experience here, more easily than I would have thought previously.

How has your family found the move?

We all love it here. My wife says that she is much happier, and our two children have settled well in an international school. Although it is a British founded school, the students come from many different nationalities, and all get along well together. The school has great teachers, and we have found that they are more individually engaged in the student’s progress than in their previous school. The children are involved in many clubs and activities both in and out of school, such as swimming and drama.

What aspects do you find contribute to a better quality of life in the UAE?

I am busy at work, but I find that outside work, I am able to switch off more and enjoy my free time. My weekday hours are fairly regular, and I do one-in-four weekends on call. I don’t take work home with me, as I used to in the UK, so it is less stressful. The weather is better, and it’s great to see the sun every day. In addition, we are able to afford a great quality of life while still saving for the future. We live right on the coast, above a mall and beach club, and I

go to the gym in our apartment complex every morning. Last weekend, I went rowing and sailing, and played padel tennis with my wife. As a family we have been enjoying more sports and leisure activities than we were able to in the UK.

What advice would you give to consultants considering a similar move?

The UAE is a great place to be. You must be willing to work hard, be flexible, and willing to do new things. There shouldn’t be any problem if you are professional, work well with colleagues and communicate well with patients. While you will earn more here, there will be initial expenses to cover when you first relocate. If you are unsure, you can come initially for a fixed time-period. As there is currently a shortage of UK consultants, you would have the option to go back. You can stay on the GMC register, but give up your licence to practise for a time, as this can easily be reinstated. My family and I are happier here, both in and out of work. We plan to stay for the long-term and I feel it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

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