Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight

Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight
1 / 12
Selwa Al-Hazzaa was granted the degree of Doctor of Humanities, Honoris Causa the highest honor of the Franklin University in Switzerland in 2017 and presented the 48th commencement address at the graduation ceremony. (Supplied)
Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight
2 / 12
Selwa Al-Hazzaa speaks during a health care event. (Supplied)
Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight
3 / 12
AN photo by Ali Aldhahri
Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight
4 / 12
AN photo by Ali Aldhahri
Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight
5 / 12
AN photo by Ali Aldhahri
Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight
6 / 12
AN photo by Ali Aldhahri
Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight
7 / 12
AN photo by Ali Aldhahri
Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight
8 / 12
AN photo by Ali Aldhahri
Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight
9 / 12
AN photo by Ali Aldhahri
Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight
10 / 12
Supplied
Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight
11 / 12
Supplied
Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight
12 / 12
Supplied
Short Url
Updated 14 January 2020

Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight

Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight
  • Selwa Al-Hazzaa shares her 27-year journey of devoted work to bettering the health care system

RIYADH: Professor Selwa Al-Hazzaa is a Saudi female success story set on the road to excellence from childhood.

Speaking to Arab News, Al-Hazzaa, an ophthalmologist and chairman of the ophthalmology department at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center (KFSHRC), told of her 27 years of devoted work to bettering the health care system, becoming the first woman to hold a high position at the hospital where she dedicated her life, energy and time to making a difference in her field.
Al-Hazzaa’s career took off in 1995, as the first Saudi woman to be made a member of the Medical Advisory Council at King Faisal Hospital. Her journey wasn’t the easiest, but with her talent, hard work and ambition, she was recognized by the Saudi leadership early on and used the platform to pave the way for future women in medicine and other fields.
Born into a family of five girls, she grew up in Tucson, Arizona in the 1960s while her father was completing his studies.  
She excelled in her school years, always living up to the highest standards and expectations which she has placed upon herself.

I didn’t choose ophthalmology, ophthalmology chose me.

Prof. Selwa Al-Hazzaa

“I went into medicine not wanting (to do) it,” she said. Nevertheless, she put all her energy into studying, because she had a higher ambition and was keen to make a difference.
One of her biggest challenges was when it was time for her to enroll in university. She wanted to travel abroad to study, but was unable to, because it was rare for women to do so at the time.
Back then the only two real professional options women had were medicine or education, and her father gave her a choice: Either to become a teacher or a physician. She chose the latter.
After obtaining her medical degree from King Saud University, she did her fellowship at the Wilmer Ophthalmologic Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Washington, DC.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Selwa Al-Hazzaa became the first woman to hold a high position at the hospital where she dedicated her life, energy and time to making a difference in her field.

• With her talent, hard work and ambition, she was recognized by the Saudi leadership early on and used the platform to pave the way for future women in medicine and other fields.

• Her first patient was a 9-year-old Saudi girl born blind, a case Al-Hazzaa had followed since the girl was less than a year old.

She returned to the Kingdom, where she was later chosen by the head of KFSHRC, Dr. Anwar Jabarti, to be the late King Fahd’s ophthalmologist. She credits Jabarti for realizing her potential, dedication and skills by looking beyond gender and solely at talent.
Her dream of representing her country came true, though under sombre circumstances, when she went on her first diplomatic mission after the fatal Sept. 11 2001 terror attacks in the US, remembering her father’s words: “When people trust you, they will then let you represent the country.”




Selwa Al-Hazzaa. (AN photo by Ali Aldhahri)

And represent her country she did, as she was the only woman between men, and with no training whatsoever in the political arena, she spoke from the heart, connecting with people. “From that day on, the government took me as their voice of Saudi Arabia after Sept. 11.”
Through a lifetime of giving, people would ask her what was the secret to her success. “There is no secret — females are always givers. When we are young, we take care of our siblings, when we are married we take care of our husbands, we get pregnant and take care of our children,” she said.
Elected as an executive member of the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) in 2002, she became the youngest member, the first woman member from the Middle East, and the only female on the council from 2002-2006. She stood down in 2010.

NUMBER

2.2bn - There are an estimated 2.2 billion people with vision impairment or blindness globally, with an estimated 1 billion who suffer from moderate or severe distance vision impairment or blindness (WHO 2019).

In 2017, Al-Hazzaa was granted the degree of doctor of humanities, honoris causa, the highest honor at Franklin University, one of many honorary titles she’s received in her career. She is also a member of various editorial boards, fellowships and committees, and was one of the first group of women appointed to the Saudi Shoura Council by late King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in 2003, in a historic move, allowing women for the first time to be part of the Kingdom’s formal advisory body.

FASTFACT

Last November, Selwa Al-Hazzaa, alongside her colleague Dr. Mohamed Khuthaila and a medical team consisting of entirely of Saudis, put the Kingdom on the map as the first country in the Middle East, and the 5th globally, to utilize LUXTURNA, the first USA FDA-approved gene therapy treatment for any genetic disorder to treat blindness in children.

With her 27 years of experience in the field, publishing 69 accredited papers and more, her life’s work finally paid off in November of last year when she, alongside her colleague Dr. Mohamed Khuthaila and a medical team consisting entirely of Saudis, put the Kingdom on the map as the first country in the Middle East, and the 5th globally, to utilize LUXTURNA, the first USA FDA-approved gene therapy treatment for any genetic disorder to treat blindness in children.
Her first patient was a nine-year-old Saudi girl born blind, a case Al-Hazzaa had followed since the girl was less than a year old. The successful utilization of the treatment was one of her finest career achievements to date.
“If you are going to take a certain specialty, don’t take what everybody’s taking — take something that doesn’t exist and make it exist. Take something hard, because then when you are called upon, it will be regardless of your gender.
“I didn’t choose ophthalmology, ophthalmology chose me.”


Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia
Updated 30 min 3 sec ago

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Arab coalition destroyed a Houthi explosive-laden drone launched toward Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, Al-Ekhbariya reported.
The drone targeting Jazan is the latest in a long line of attacks against the Kingdom by the Iran-back Houthi militia. 
The coalition said the attack is a continuation of the Houthi’s systematic and intentional hostile attempts to target civilians. 
The Houthis, who took over the capital of Yemen, Sanaa, in 2014, have been condemned for their actions against the Kingdom. 


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives call from Turkey’s Erdogan

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives call from Turkey’s Erdogan
Updated 14 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives call from Turkey’s Erdogan

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives call from Turkey’s Erdogan
  • During the call, they exchanged well wishes for the month of Ramadan

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman received a phone call on Wednesday from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Saudi Press Agency reported.
During the call, Erdogan extended his greetings to the king for the month of Ramadan.
King Salman thanked thanked the Turkish president and exchanged well wishes for the Muslim holy month.


Watch: The Kaaba and Grand Mosque fragranced 10 times a day

Watch: The Kaaba and Grand Mosque fragranced 10 times a day
Updated 36 min 45 sec ago

Watch: The Kaaba and Grand Mosque fragranced 10 times a day

Watch: The Kaaba and Grand Mosque fragranced 10 times a day
  • Perfuming the Grand Mosque and the Kaaba is seen as an act of service and reverence for Islam’s holiest site
  • Sixty incense burners are used daily to burn 60kg of oud in the mosque

MAKKAH: The Grand Mosque and Kaaba are perfumed with high quality fragrances ten times a day, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Fragrance is applied to the Kaaba and is used in the mosque more regularly during special occasions such as the holy month of Ramadan, days of Hajj and on Fridays.
Perfuming the Grand Mosque and the Kaaba is seen as an act of service and reverence for Islam’s holiest site and those visiting it.
It aims to provide an atmosphere of spirituality and holiness to the thousands of people who visit, pray and perform Umrah pilgrimage at the mosque.
Sixty incense burners are used daily to burn 60kg of oud in the mosque, a practice that signals veneration for the holy site.
There is a huge importance placed on cleanliness and smelling good in Islam and Muslims apply perfume to prayer mats, prayer clothes, rosaries and burn incense in mosques.


Saudi Arabia announces eight more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces eight more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 14 April 2021

Saudi Arabia announces eight more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces eight more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 385,441
  • A total of 6,781 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced eight deaths from COVID-19 and 929 new infections on Wednesday.
Of the new cases, 443 were recorded in Riyadh, 172 in Makkah, 130 in the the Eastern Province, 30 in Madinah, 26 in Asir, 24 in Tabuk, 22 in Jazan, 22 in Hail, 11 in the Northern Borders region,11 in Najran and six in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 385,441 after 806 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 6,781 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 6.5 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia to date.


King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims

King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims
Updated 14 April 2021

King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims

King Salman offers Ramadan wishes, orders best services for pilgrims

RIYADH: King Salman on Tuesday offered his best wishes to the Muslim world on the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan. 
The comments came as the king chaired the weekly government meeting virtually. 
He also instructed that pilgrims be given the best possible services during the holy month, which for a second year will be observed under strict protocols to help curtail the spread of the coronavirus.