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A Fertile Vision: Samir Abbas

The pioneering work of Professor Samir Abbas has made Saudi Arabia one of the top nations for IVF treatment. His Dr Samir Abbas Hospital is using the latest innovations to carry that legacy into the future.

Health care in Saudi Arabia is among the best in the world. The nation is a mainstay of the World Health Organization’s top 30 countries in terms of quality health care. Regular funding from the central government means Saudi citizens enjoy free public medical treatment.

Meanwhile, the private sector has also invested heavily in hospitals and medical education. As a result, significant breakthroughs have been made in the country, particularly around in vitro fertilization (IVF) and family health.

One of the pioneers of Saudi Arabia’s healthcare system is Professor Samir Abbas, an authority on women’s health. His Dr Samir Abbas Hospital has been at the forefront of IVF, genetics and gynecology since its inception. It continues to provide cutting-edge treatments and services that elevate the industry, in addition to all major medical specialties.

It wasn’t always this way, however. The years following World War II found Saudi Arabia lagging behind the world in health care and education.

“I was born at that time and my family was living in Jeddah,” Abbas tells The CEO Magazine. “My father had some health problems, and he used to go to Cairo because it was a very advanced city at that time.”

“We have almost every single specialty.”

Such was the state of Jeddah’s healthcare system at the time that Abbas’ mother gave birth to his four siblings in Cairo. “We never had a single hospital, medical doctors or medical colleges,” he says. “I remember at the age of 10 years attending the delivery of my youngest brother and seeing what my mother went through. That was the time I decided to become an obstetrician, because women should not have children with such agony and pain.”

Over the following years, the young Abbas pursued this dream, helped by a scholarship from the government. “I got my school degrees in Jeddah, I went to medical college in Egypt, got a master’s degree in gynecology, and from there I went to the United Kingdom and obtained the Member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.”

In the midst of his training in the United Kingdom, the first IVF baby in the world was born in July 1978. “I attended a lecture about the process given by the founders of the technology,” says Abbas.

“I realized women would have much more hope if IVF treatment was available in Saudi Arabia, so I changed my plans.”

An IVF Revolution

Abbas stayed in the United Kingdom to train in IVF, then took his knowledge back to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz University, the first medical school – and the first university – in Jeddah, where he was appointed as a professor.

“The gap between what was happening in Saudi Arabia during my childhood and the rest of the world was huge,” he says, adding that now, the Kingdom currently has more than 30 medical schools and a huge number of hospitals and has successfully bridged the gap.

The university rejected Abbas’ project for funds to establish the Kingdom’ s first IVF center. “So I went to the Minister of Health who welcomed the project but he asked me to seek approval from the highest religious authority in the Muslim world in Makkah [Islamic Fiqh Academy],” he says.

In 1982, Abbas fronted a group of 50 Muslim scholars, hoping to convince them that IVF was the way of the future. He failed. “I never accept no as an answer. I had to pursue my dream,” he recalls. “Next year I came back with a bigger and more detailed presentation, and eventually I managed to convince them.”

Ferring Pharmaceuticals

Saudi Arabia’s first IVF center was established in late 1984, with the country’s first test-tube baby born in April of 1986. “That was the first in the entire Arab and Muslim world,” says Abbas.

“For me, it was a personal victory because it was the first under my name, and the first for my country and city, Jeddah.”

The birth was the start of a medical revolution. The next year, Abbas delivered IVF quadruplets; the year after, triplets. “People used to come to me from everywhere because I was the only one in the Middle East doing it,” he says.

“I thought it was important to expand the service to reach patients nationwide, so in 2001 we opened another center in Riyadh, the capital, then another in the Eastern Province, Khobar, and then another in Medina.”

Continuing a Legacy

Abbas’ tireless dedication to his dream led him to plan for a huge leap: the construction of a futuristic general hospital in Jeddah. Opened in 2017, Dr Samir Abbas Hospital covers all medical specialties and subspecialties, such as open and closed heart surgery, brain surgery and spinal, bariatric and joint replacement surgery. Partnered with some of the biggest names in women’s health, such as Ferring Pharmaceuticals and GT Medical, Abbas says his facility has had great success.

“We have almost every single specialty,” he says. “I wanted to establish a futuristic hospital where I could bring state of the art technology to all aspects of the hospital. The hospital is overlooking the Red Sea with a wonderful ultra-modern exterior, but warm, home-like rooms and interior decoration.”

The Dr Samir Abbas Hospital takes its namesake’s pioneering work in family wellness forward in all respects. “It was difficult to establish ourselves in the first couple of years among other older medical facilities, but we were able to do that even with the COVID-19 pandemic going on,” he says.

“I believe that once you create a major health project, you have to continuously develop and support it. The only way to do that is to generate enough income to keep the story going because medicine is a fast progressing science and business. 

“I never accept no as an answer in the pursuit of my dream.”

“Just as we expanded our medical centers in the past, we hopefully plan to expand Dr Samir Abbas Hospital into other cities as well.”

Many of Dr Samir Abbas Hospital’s services aren’t offered anywhere else. The name Dr Samir Abbas has become something of a trademark in Saudi Arabia. “Our centers are by far superior,” he says. “We have the best doctors, embryologists, nurses and most advanced equipment.

“We insist on honesty, safety, quality and transparency.”

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