TheFace: Dr. Basma Albuhairan, deputy CEO at a leading Saudi teaching hospital

Dr. Basma Albuhairan with her niece and nephews. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 23 August 2019

TheFace: Dr. Basma Albuhairan, deputy CEO at a leading Saudi teaching hospital

There is an ongoing discussion about how to combine the Saudi values of Islamic heritage, parenthood, family, respect, hard work, responsibility and compassion with the modern values of working, leadership, competition, innovation and success in the workplace.

How can Saudi family values be leveraged to be a more powerful and influential force in driving the changes and transformation happening in the world around us?

I hope my case can serve as an example for showing how our values can help develop a successful modern career.

Knowledge is fundamental to all development. Knowledge can give power, and if combined with Saudi values, it can also lead to wisdom. Power and wisdom are strong forces that can lead to positive change and improvement.

I am most fortunate that my parents instilled a thirst for knowledge and education and hard work in me, as well as in my siblings. I managed to undertake valuable health care research work for my Ph.D. and also work as a deputy CEO of a leading teaching hospital. Now, I can contribute to the economic development of my nation while working for the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority.

My whole career, and all the things I have been able to contribute to the Kingdom, primarily occurred because of the values that my parents instilled in me.

I was brought up in a family that greatly values education, intellect and hard work. I have two siblings, a sister and brother, who are dynamic and equally successful in their lives.

I am from Al-Jouf, which is in the Northern Region of Saudi Arabia, and I was raised in the US.

Reflecting on my childhood, I think it was during those years that I developed a passion for challenges. During those years, I vividly recall my parents constantly reinforcing the importance and need to excel in school. I was not only competitive in my studies, but also in sports. Any challenge I came across, no matter how difficult, I took head on and always managed to overcome and move on to face my next challenge with greater strength.

I am honored and proud to be a part of the economic, social and cultural changes that will pave the way for future generations to come.

In addition to having a passion for challenges, my parents taught us the importance of being respectful, compassionate, helpful and polite. They are important to us to this day.

Our parents also taught us to be independent, responsible and accountable for our own actions.

My parents have always given me their unconditional love, encouragement and support. My father has always been my source of wisdom, and the person who has always pushed me to go beyond my limits, dream big, and to never give up. My mother is my role model; her resiliency and joyful spirit are inspirational.

The values my parents instilled in their children are clearly being nurtured and passed onto our next generation: My niece and nephews. I am a proud aunt to one niece and five nephews, who I love spending time with. The relationship and bond we have is very special. It is truly amazing how much you can learn from youngsters.   

As I progressed through school, I came to know my interests, likes and dislikes. My interests centered around creative writing, literature and communication. I thought I would become a journalist or a writer. Little did I know, at that time, my career would take me down a completely different path. I ended up studying medical technology. Since “education breeds confidence,” I went on to study for two graduate degrees and a postgraduate degree in health care. My degrees laid the foundation of a lifelong pursuit of knowledge that still drives me to accomplish more to this day.

Working hard and being recognized based on merit are key attributes that one should have. Therefore, my career started as a junior employee in a clinical laboratory in one of the leading hospitals in Saudi Arabia. I worked my way up the corporate ladder and took on various leadership roles in the public and private sectors.

The experiences I have had broadened my horizons and allowed me to become more receptive, adaptive and versatile.

While reflecting on where I am today in my career, I have been asking myself whether I got here by mere chance, by making the right decisions, or because of the prayers, love and support of my family? I wonder how much perseverance, ambition, and drive contributed to my success; however, I never doubt that the love and support of my family has contributed most significantly to where I am today.

The world today is so different than that of yesterday. We are living at a time where we are going through a unique and exciting transformation. I am honored and proud to be a part of the economic, social and cultural changes that will pave the way for future generations to come. I hope to continue contributing to the accomplishments of my country and become a mentor to the next generation. • 


UK ambassador reflects on five ‘big years’ in Saudi Arabia

Outgoing UK Ambassador Simon Collis speaks during an interview with Arab News in Riyadh. (AN photo by Saleh Al-Ghanem)
Updated 27 January 2020

UK ambassador reflects on five ‘big years’ in Saudi Arabia

  • Gap between perception and reality of Kingdom, says Simon Collis

RIYADH: Britain’s outgoing ambassador to Saudi Arabia said it has been a privilege to be in the country for the last five years and witness the changes in the Kingdom firsthand.

Simon Collis joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1978 and has been an ambassador in Iraq, Syria and Qatar. He has also held senior diplomatic positions in Bahrain, Tunisia, Jordan, Dubai and India.
His diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia began a week after King Salman came to the throne in January 2015. A personal highlight was performing the Hajj in 2016 with wife Huda.
The five years that we’ve been here have been five big years, not only for us but five big years ... in the history of Saudi Arabia and certainly in the relationship with the UK,” he told Arab News. “It’s been just a wonderful time.”
He said there used to be concern about the role of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, known as the Mutawa’a or religious police, and its unchecked power.
“There were people that would be nervous about it. There was no music in public places, there was no mixing in restaurants. In 2015 no one would have imagined just how much these changes would be, first with (the reform plan) Vision 2030, then economic, and also social changes, women driving, the removal of the guardianship laws across pretty much everything, and the balancing role of the Mutawa’a.”
He welcomed the government’s emphasis on developing the entertainment and cultural sectors, calling it a “tremendous story,” and said he had enjoyed witnessing the Kingdom’s transformation.
“To see the enthusiasm in a young country, I think a lot of these new sectors, creative entertainment, on top of the existing ones like education, have been a delight to see. Of course, it’s not finished yet. I think this period, these five years, will look like a big moment in the history of the Kingdom.”
Changes in the Kingdom have attracted interest — and greater visitor numbers — from overseas.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Simon Collis joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1978 and has been an ambassador in Iraq, Syria and Qatar.

• He has also held senior diplomatic positions in Bahrain, Tunisia, Jordan, Dubai and India.

• His diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia began a week after King Salman came to the throne in January 2015.

• A personal highlight was performing the Hajj in 2016 with wife Huda.

The country is gaining a reputation for hosting massive events featuring the world’s biggest names including boxing match Clash On The Dunes pitting Britain’s Anthony Joshua against Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr, the electronic dance music festival MDL Beast featuring David Guetta and Steve Aoki, and concerts from K-Pop megastars BTS and Super Junior.
The ambassador said there was a gap between the perception of the Kingdom and the country’s on-the-ground reality.
“In any country, there is a gap between the perception that the image that exists in the world, and the reality that you find. This is true of any country. That gap between the perception and reality has been bigger in relation to Saudi Arabia than to any other country that I’ve lived in. So, the result is once people visit and they see for themselves, then they change their overall perception. They change their minds, and this is a very powerful thing.”
Tens of thousands of UK nationals visit the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah every year to perform Hajj and Umrah, but the reasons to visit the country are increasing.
Collis said that 43,000 people from the UK had taken advantage of a new e-visa system launched last October to visit Saudi Arabia, the highest number in the world.
“Every year we’ve seen the number of Saudi nationals visiting the UK increase, now it’s coming the other way,” Collis said. “With a population of less than 70 million, and it’s the No. 1 country visiting Saudi Arabia more than any other country, I’m very proud of that. I would say that of the hundreds and thousands of British people who I have met visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time, every single person I have met has left with a more positive (outlook) than the one that they arrived with. So, more visits must mean more people have a better idea of the realities of this country, society and its people.”
Collis said he had met many Saudis and forged friendships with them. People in the Kingdom had integrity and were straightforward, and the ambassador had special praise for the younger generation saying there was a “natural enjoyment” when he sat with them to talk. They were very aware, he added.

NUMBER

43,000 - people from the UK had taken advantage of a new e-visa system launched last October to visit Saudi Arabia, the highest number in the world.

His regard for young Saudis is evident. He launched the Alumni Awards, which recognize Saudi students who have returned to the Kingdom, excelled and succeeded in their professions or made an impact in their communities. With more than 100,000 Saudis studying in the UK over the last 10 years, the program will be developed in order to increase engagement with them once they return to Saudi Arabia.
The national and global awards initiative is aimed at showcasing the impact and value of a UK higher education, and winners and finalists are leaders in their fields.
“The Alumni Awards are fun. What the award looks at, whether it’s an entrepreneur or professional or social category, it’s not what did you do in the UK with your studies, it’s when you got your qualification, what did you do in Saudi Arabia when you came back. How did you use it? It’s about what use you put it to, not what you get, but how did you use it to further your own career, your life and that of your community and others around you,” Collis said.
Collis is succeeded as the UK’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia by Neil Crompton, who takes up the role next month.