TheFace: Dr. Ebtissam Murshid, Saudi pediatric dentist and special needs advocate

Dr. Ebtissam Murshid with her family. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
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Updated 27 December 2019

TheFace: Dr. Ebtissam Murshid, Saudi pediatric dentist and special needs advocate

  • A devoted dentist who is passionate about the rights of special needs children

I cannot say that I always knew that I was going to be a dentist, but I can say that once I began my journey, I knew there would be nothing else that I would ever want to do.
I was born in Riyadh, the third of six siblings. My father, a businessman, and my mother, a homemaker, always encouraged us to be the best versions of ourselves. My siblings and I grew up in a home full of love and encouragement, and parents that supported us in all our academic endeavors.
My father was so proud when I entered dental school, and he still brags to people about his daughter, which touches my heart and brings me pride.
As an undergraduate dental student at King Saud University in the 1990s, I found more than just my calling in life, I also found my partner: My husband, Dr. Esam Tashkandi. We were in the same year of dental school and were very drawn to each other. Today, we have five beautiful children, who are my best friends and the light of my life.
After we both received our undergraduate degrees in dentistry, my husband and I decided to continue our education and specializations spending almost 10 years in the US, where we graduated with multiple postgraduate degrees from the University of Michigan. I obtained four degrees during my time there: A doctorate of public health, a master’s of public health, a master’s of science in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics and a certificate of clinical specialty in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics.
Currently, I see patients at my private practice in a clinic here in Riyadh, but as a professor, I also teach at my own alma mater, King Saud University. I still treat patients, but more importantly I pass on what I know as often as I can so a new generation of dentists can emerge.
Becoming a pediatric dentist was the only logical next step in the course of my career. I have always loved children, and children have always loved me. My natural knack for handling them, for soothing tempers and making them smile, has been invaluable throughout my career. I think it has to do with my name: “Ebtissam,” which is Arabic for “smile,” and I have many decorations and toys all over my clinic marked with smiling faces for that reason. It’s like my mark.
My interest lies mostly in treating children with special special needs as many other dentists avoid seeing them for various reasons. It could be due to their lack of knowledge or the patience to deal with them. Treating children with autism, for example, is difficult as communication is key to gain their trust. They don’t express themselves the way other children do, and their behavior is different as well.
One day, I had a patient come into my office whose mother seemed almost defeated. She told me that she had been to almost a dozen doctors, none who seemed able to help her son who was autistic. The child had a tooth that was causing him so much pain she would often find him lying on the floor, cheek pressed to the cold ground, trying to alleviate it. But none of the doctors she visited could control him.
After spending enough time and effort, I was able to coax him into having the tooth removed. I never forgot his mother’s gratitude. It was then that I knew that I would continue to do this even if no one else would.
I was one of the few dentists who saw special needs patients on a regular basis, and eventually gained a reputation as being highly capable with special needs children. As the number of special needs children I saw increased, I started to focus on them more. Today, I have given several lectures internationally about the treatment of special needs children in regards to their oral health, and am a proud member of multiple special needs societies, including the prestigious Saudi Autism Society.
To me, there was still more that I could do. I could treat these patients myself, but I often ask myself about what would happen when I decide to retire. To that end, I wrote a proposal to the dean of the college of dentistry requesting permission to establish the first dental clinic specifically for special needs children at the college and received welcoming approvals.
The clinic is also a teaching facility for the students themselves, providing free treatment for the children and the students gain valuable experience. The invaluable support of the administration is what made this possible, and I’m so grateful to my university for helping me with this endeavor.
The children I treat are my inspiration. There is nothing that feels better than knowing that I can help to bring them comfort when no one else will. But in the future, I hope we can inspire more dentists to work with special needs patients. Even if it’s a little more stressful, and a little more difficult, the end results are always worth it.


Guinness World Records has great expectations for Saudi titles milestone

Updated 25 September 2020

Guinness World Records has great expectations for Saudi titles milestone

  • In MENA region, KSA is second behind UAE for its record-breaking prowess, with 93 GWR titles

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s penchant for breaking world records looks set to see the Kingdom smash through the 100 titles mark in the not-too-distant future, officials have predicted.
Guinness World Records (GWR), which lists incredible human achievements and extremes of nature, has great expectations for the country over the coming months.
The Kingdom has been placed second behind the UAE in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for its record-breaking prowess, with 93 GWR titles under its belt.
GWR’s senior marketing manager in the MENA region, Shaddy Gaad, told Arab News: “We’re very impressed with Saudi record-breaking and we’re really excited — a lot of record-breaking happens on the National Day.
“Over the last few years and with the Saudi Seasons (activity festivals) we’ve seen a big rise in record-breaking in Saudi Arabia and we’re looking forward to seeing this continue.
“Saudi Arabia is on the up and it’s rising very quickly. There were a lot of records broken near the end of last year. We had Riyadh Season and we had AlUla. I think that number’s going to rise up very quickly,” he said.

Largest hot air balloon glow show: The largest hot air balloon glow show consisted of 100 hot air balloons and was achieved by the Royal Commission for AlUla on Jan. 6, 2019.

Gaad added that so far this year there had been a 15 percent increase in the number of new records set by MENA nations.
“This year we received 750 applications from the MENA region, compared to 649 in the first eight months of 2019. From Saudi Arabia, we received 79 applications and we expect it to go up to 100 by the end of the year,” he said.
One of the most notable titles achieved by Saudi Arabia was for the largest mirror building, the Maraya Concert Hall in AlUla. “If you see that building itself, it’s absolutely beautiful. It looks like something out of a movie,” added Gaad.
Jeddah can boast the world’s largest burger restaurant, with I’m Hungry covering 2,860 square meters, the equivalent of 11 tennis courts according to its marketing team.
The Red Sea port city also has the world’s tallest unsupported flagpole, while AlUla plays host to the largest hot air balloon glow show, and Saudi influencer Hussain Sallam (known as S7S) holds the record for the largest serving of sayadieh (1,334 kilograms of the seasoned fish and rice dish).

Largest human awareness ribbon: The largest human awareness ribbon consisted of 8,264 participants and was achieved by Saudi women at an event organized by 10KSA in Riyadh on Dec. 12, 2015.

Stunt driver Terry Grant completed the largest loop-the-loop in a car during Riyadh Season on Nov. 25, and the MDL Beast Festival in the Saudi capital on Dec. 21 won the tallest stage title.
However, similar to most organizations, WGR has had to adapt to working around safety restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We moved a lot of things online. To view the growth in the number of applications, we launched this online record-breaking; what happened is it’s a dedicated brand and content division, focused on helping brands and businesses break records as part of their marketing campaign, and all of it is done over the internet.
“It wasn’t difficult; record-breaking and evidence provision is generally done online. It wasn’t difficult for us; the only thing was that people just had to get used to it, but it was a seamless process,” said Gaad.

Largest burger restaurant: The largest burger restaurant covers an area of 2,860 square meters and the title was achieved by I’m Hungry in Jeddah on Dec. 12, 2019.

The new division runs over content such as live-streaming, online pledges, online albums, video relays, and video chains.
One of them happened in Saudi Arabia, with the most viewers for an Iftar YouTube live stream, when 183,544 people tuned in to enjoy popular YouTubers such as “The Saudi Reporters” and comedian Omar Hussein.
“These influencers got together on YouTube, live, and for an hour they were sharing their stories about Ramadan traditions and Saudi traditions. They broke their fast and shared this moment with their fans. That video ended up trending as No. 1 in Saudi and the region.
“If anything, this pandemic has taught us to adapt to situations. I think people are now more flexible with the idea of doing online records as much as they’re doing offline records,” Gaad added.
He pointed out that the online application process for the GWR was simple and that titles were granted based on whether the record was measurable (longest, largest, heaviest, etc.), breakable, standardizable, or verifiable, and if it was made up of one variable.

SOME OF THE RECORDS BROKEN IN SAUDI ARABIA

• Tallest flagpole: The tallest unsupported flagpole measures 171 meters (561 feet) and was erected by Jeddah Municipality and Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (ALJCI) in Jeddah on Sept. 23, 2014.

• Largest drinking water storage facility: The largest drinking water storage facility is the Briman Strategic Water Reservoir, in Jeddah, with a total capacity of 2,062,500 cubic meters, verified on Nov. 17, 2014. Fun fact: The volume of this facility could fill up six skyscrapers the size of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

• Largest burger restaurant: The largest burger restaurant covers an area of 2,860 square meters and the title was achieved by I’m Hungry in Jeddah on Dec. 12, 2019.

• Largest hot air balloon glow show: The largest hot air balloon glow show consisted of 100 hot air balloons and was achieved by the Royal Commission for AlUla on Jan. 6, 2019.

• The Largest Serving of sayadieh: The largest serving of sayadieh was 1,334 kg achieved by Hussain Sallam in Jeddah on Sept. 14, 2019.

• Darkest man-made substance: The darkest man-made substance is a black material made of gold nanoparticles and called dark chameleon dimers, which absorbs more than 99 percent of visible light over the whole visible range. The material was made by scientists from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), in a joint collaboration between Prof. Yu Han and Prof. Andrea Fratalocchi.

• Largest water desalination company: The largest water desalination company is Saline Water Conversion Corp. (Saudi Arabia) which produces 4,600,000 cubic meters a day as verified on June 4, 2016. •Largest Tele-ICU command center: The largest Tele-ICU command center consisted of 796 beds and was achieved by Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Medical Group in Riyadh and verified on July 31, 2019.

• Tallest stage (temporary): The tallest stage (temporary) measured 38 meters in height and was achieved by MDL Beast Fest in Riyadh on Dec. 21, 2019.

• Most consecutive wins in AFC champions league: The most consecutive wins of the AFC champions league are two achieved by Al Ittihad FC (Saudi Arabia) in 2004-2005.

• Largest human awareness ribbon: The largest human awareness ribbon consisted of 8,264 participants and was achieved by Saudi women at an event organized by 10KSA in Riyadh on Dec. 12, 2015.