It’s a pleasure for me to introduce my good friend Ahmed Essam, who has agreed to share his views and opinions on cardiology, travelling, religion and other interesting topics.
Ahmed, you used to work as a cardiologist in the National Heart Institute in Cairo and now you are working in Marsa Matrouh Heart Center. Can you tell us more about your profession?
I think being a cardiologist is a blessing to me, because it is what I have always wanted to do for a living. It is more a passion than a profession and one of the things I love most. We deal with the most critical of patients and help improve their quality of life, so we get the feeling that we are doing something important, and this is followed by a good deal of self-satisfaction. What I look forward to as a sub-specialty is interventional cardiology. What makes it one of the best, in my opinion, is that what we do in 30-60 minutes while the patient is awake can replace an open heart surgery to some extent. Also, the development in this field is going really fast. So what I really want to be is an interventional cardiologist.
What is the daily life of a cardiologist in Egypt like?
The daily life of a cardiologist is this: work hard for a long shift, sleep to gather energy for another long shift and on and on! It is a very exhausting job. In addition, most of the time there is always an exam coming up, either for a master degree, a Medical doctorate or a sub-specialty advanced exam. So yes, cardiologists enjoy life differently, but after all, it worth it.
You have done a two-month internship at the West German Heart Center in Essen which belongs to one of the best European cardiology centers. How was your experience?
It was indeed, extraordinary. It gave me a chance to experience the most advanced of interventional procedures in cardiology, operated by some of Europe’s finest cardiologists. I was also lucky that there was an Egyptian doctor working there, a very successful and promising cardiologist named Karim Al Chilali, who was very helpful, educative and supportive and that made the internship perfect. One of the things I will never forget, is when the head of the department, who is a big shot and one of the masters, was blaming me for not reading all the time, but hinting that I might turn up to be good. This internship was one of the reasons that made me fight for what I want to be.
Was this the first time you went abroad to do an internship in a hospital?
No, it was not. It was the fourth time.
That’s interesting. Can you tell us more about the previous experience that you gained abroad?
The first internship was in Ohrid, Macedonia. It was my gateway to a broad horizon of thinking, and I dare say that I have changed in many ways after Ohrid. The second training was at the Prague University Hospital. It was also special in a way; because it was there where I decided to be what I am now. I was a medical student at that time, and had my training at the cardiology department. The doctor who was supposed to take care of me was busy. So to nicely send me away, he asked me to go to the Catheter lab as there is more to see than to do there. I agreed and there I met a professor, a mean one! The first thing he told me, is that many of his colleagues are having a back surgery due to standing a long time with the heavy protective apron, and I should be careful choosing. I think he also wanted to send me away, but I came again the next day, and again and again, and now I am willing to happily risk having a back surgery. It might be worth mentioning that nowadays, many times, I drive 1000 kilometers (10 hours) back and forth to work at the Catheter lab and never miss any chance!
What about the fourth internship?
The fourth one was at the University Hospital Bohunice in Brno. There was nothing special about the training itself. But if I could, I would go back to Brno again and again. I had the best days of my life there with literally the best people. I experienced many new things there; social, emotional and other. It was there that I learned to look differently at life. I cut apples to attract people to buy an Eco magazine. I never thought I would do that! And it was amazing! I went to save frogs with a friend by helping them cross the high way! There was always time to pause and reflect. I felt the meaning of care and concern there. I always want to come back to Brno.
It is very nice to hear such praise. It seems that travelling has changed your view on life.
It definitely has. Well, it is simple. How could you know if your house is good or not if you haven’t seen any other houses? It is the same. When we live for a long time at the same place with the same people, we are not complete! There is another part of us that we haven’t seen, because we simply have only seen us. But when we travel and encounter other cultures and religions, we start to see the whole picture. We start to learn who we really are, and whether we like the way we are. I became way more tolerant because at some point I realized that there is someone who strongly believes in what I don’t believe in at all, and he is as confident in it as I am. I realized that we could both be right and wrong, so why bother? I rather let things flow easily.
I know that religion is very important in your life. How did all those travels influence your view, apart from becoming more tolerant as you said?
It did improve my faith in a way. The good thing about thinking that you might be wrong is that you think it all over again, but in a comprehensive way. The deeper you think, the more you realize and discover. It is a journey you start by yourself and take on your own, so everything in it is beautiful. I discovered a new face of faith which is deeper and more spiritual. I began to understand that there is more to religion than what the scholars say and that made my religion and my life much easier. It is about knowing who you really are and being convinced in what you believe in, giving yourself the space to think, doubt, balance, agree or disagree. So your decisions are based on broad base; a comprehensive base, and not just because that’s how everybody does it.
If I understand it correctly, you say that there should always be a space for individuals to contemplate about their faith. Is that correct?
Yes, exactly. People have to think about their faith, take a pause to reflect on it and its essence, to search for the spirit of religion. They should have a space to think about the teachings, and not just do what scholars say just because they can’t be wrong. Religion is much easier and more beautiful when it has a spirit and not just “you should and shouldn’t”. It’s important to have this concept or else it will be very easy for a good believer to be manipulated and led to violence and this is what had happened at the time of the ancient empires and the dark ages and now by radicals of our modern age.
How do you think people can be supported in thinking this way?
It is difficult to determine one method because; the whole thing depends on different circumstances. Ironically you may find two countries based on the same religion but on very different teachings that the mainstream is spoon fed, all because of historical reasons. But there are always some ways. One way is to spread the teachings that improve the lifestyle and don’t focus on things that have a back door to be misinterpreted. One of the very good organizations that I know that achieves such thing is “Productive Muslim“. It focuses on how to use religion to get the best of your day, far away from politics.
I have never heard about it. What exactly do they say?
They say things like how to manage to do prayers while doing sports and get a benefit physically and spiritually or how to arrange your fasting day in Ramadan, so you can still be productive at work despite not eating.
Besides religion, in what else do you find satisfaction and peace?
My family and my partner. I am so thankful for having my family and my fiancée, no one could be more loving and supportive. But I also find peace by myself in long car drives or long walks especially by riversides; I could do it for all day long.
My blog is mainly about interesting ideas, initiatives and projects. Can you think of any project worth sharing?
One of the best organizations that brings different cultures together is IFMSA; International Federation of Medical Students Association. It dissolves the boundaries between cultures in a very creative way. It gives medical students the chance to develop their abilities either professionally or socially, and inspire them to improve the world, irrespective of their race, religion, culture or sex.
Do you have any personal motto?
Yes, I have one.
“God should be in hearts and not tongues”
الله فى الافئدة و ليس الالسنة
What are your plans for the future?
Work as hard as possible to achieve my dream of becoming a successful interventional cardiologist, and travel to see the whole world.
Thank you very much for your time.
I thank you for this opportunity.
You are welcome. I wish you good luck and hope to hear from you soon in a guest post.
Copyright: Ahmed Essam