1. Tell us more about your background.
I am an American Lebanese doctor specialized in preventive and global health. I started my education in Lebanon at the American University of Beirut then moved to Florida for about 9 years to simultaneously, study at more than one reputable university. Ever since I started my college education, I was always double majoring, taking the maximum allowed number of courses and overloading my summers. I wanted to create my own miniature world of knowledge linking the healthcare field with food technology, research, statistics, environmental & occupational medicine, preventive health and most importantly my precious last degree: global health.
I am the first and only doctor in the Middle East specializing in global health. In the US, I worked in collaboration with the American Lung Association helping asthmatic children and researching COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). I still research and develop publications for them, when time permits. In Lebanon, I had the unique opportunity to work with the Ministry of Health developing the first comprehensive National Maternal and Infant Health policy. I also initiated a series of national and regional health awareness campaigns. You can like my Facebook page, “Dr. Sandra El Hajj”, and get updated about the latest health and medical news.
2.You plan to target the MENA region and other underserved world populations including Egypt, kindly brief us on the challenges and opportunities you think you might face, particularly in Egypt.
That is true, my goal is to target the MENA region specifically and any other international left-out subpopulation in need. I don’t believe in barriers that prevent you from doing your job. It is a matter of understanding every country, religion, cultural value and sculpting your project to fit in. I believe that Egyptians are very open to make changes for the betterment of their health and life. There are several gaps in Egypt at the time being but hopefully with the proper funding, I will be able to help.
3. Would you tell us more about the nature of your project in Egypt,is it a charitable or a private organization?Is it an independent humanitarian organization or is it under the auspices of the UN for instance?
My foreseen projects in Egypt will be under the umbrella of an independent,not-for-profit humanitarian work. I intend to work independently alongside the ministry of health and other national organizations. I highly respect the UN and hope to collaborate with them someday.
4.How would you face the NGOs’ constraints in Egypt? In terms of legislation/registration/funding?
The NGO is officially registered in Beirut with working offices in both Saudi Arabia and the USA. I trust there will never be any issues in Egypt since I will be abiding to the general rules and laws set by the Egyptian Ministry of Public Health. I am currently at the fundraising stage so if anyone has a philanthropic side, I invite them to donate.
5. Could you tell us more about the channels/tools (media or other platforms) you plan to utilize to raise public awareness about health care in Egypt.Promoting wellness and raising health awareness, among the poor in Egypt, is a big challenge, given that this sector of the population is mostly illiterate. How will you reach them?
Like any health awareness initiative I develop, I start it with a flexible plan and keep shifting it to get the best results. While for some people, internet, e-advertising and social media are the best ways to reach out for them; for others it could be the television, radio, SMS, magazines, journals or even lectures/seminars.
I believe the best way to reach people who can’t read is through listening: using radio interviews, radio advertising and TV based commercials can lead to great results. Finally, holding targeted seminars and public gathering sessions can perfect these results.
6. Do you think working on humanitarian practices and true happiness are related in anyway?
I believe that every person on Earth comes with equally important missions. Some are meant to have their missions wider than others giving a sense of existence to larger group of people. I do believe that when you make someone happier or healthier, your own life blossoms! I believe that when you give a push of survival to someone who ran out of options, you will feel blessed. I think when you help truly needy people without expecting anything in return, you start understanding a little more about the true meaning of life.
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