Helping hundreds of international doctors relocate to the UK, this week we’re speaking to the amazing Dr Al Laham, relocating from Dubai with a dream to join the NHS.
Despite the challenges of relocating in a pandemic, with difficulties of self-isolation periods and quarantine hotels, Dr Al Laham shares his determination to reach the UK to work for one of the best healthcare systems in the world, whilst working with a medical recruitment agency to help secure his dream job.
Hello Dr Al Laham! Could you please start by introducing yourself? Your grade, specialty and country you are relocating from?
Hello! Relocating from Dubai, I’m joining the NHS as a Paediatrician and Neonatologist at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust.
Taking it back to where we it all began, what was your motivation to be a doctor?
When I was a child, I had two sisters who died within their first year of being born. Growing up, I asked so many questions. From what their diagnosis was, to: did they have any medical support and could their deaths have been prevented? It came to light that, at that time (around 50 years ago), there just wasn’t much medical care available – and I wanted to change that.
Once you completed your foundation training, what led you to choose to specialise in Paediatrics and Neonatology?
Following on from the death of my sisters, I truly wanted to help babies and children. I wanted to provide them with excellent care and for them to be healthy. When I was doing my internship and during my first experience within Paediatrics, I soon learnt that the specialty doesn’t just care for children, it cares for the whole family. From parents to siblings to grandparents – you really can change a whole family’s life.
Dubai to the UK is a big decision! What led you to the decision to relocate?
Firstly, the NHS is the biggest healthcare organisation in the entire world. For any doctor, all our books, guidelines, protocols and the foundation of medicine is all from the UK. So, it made sense to go to the source and work within the system itself.
Secondly, as a doctor it’s important to always to stay up to date with your knowledge and skills. Offering the best training in the world, the NHS is the system to help me constantly improve.
When the pandemic started, did this deter your decision to relocate to the UK?
A pandemic is a pandemic, which means it’s everywhere. Just because the UK was particularly bad, it didn’t make a difference to me – I was going to be exposed to Covid-19 wherever I worked. I had already planned to come to the UK before the pandemic started, so that was what I was going to do.
To move onto qualifications to join the NHS, what was your experience of obtaining MRCPCH?
If you study and prepare well – you’ll do well. MRCPCH is not an easy exam by any means but set yourself a target, work towards it, assess your progress and achieve it. Although I was busy with hospital life, family life and other duties and responsibilities – I organised my time and I was successful.
Do you have any advice for junior doctors looking to become a SpR Paediatrics?
As a teacher, I always tell my students that nothing is impossible. If you have a goal and you work towards it, you’ll achieve it. Paediatrics is absolutely the most difficult and trickiest specialty. You’re caring for patients that often aren’t able to speak and highlight their pain, which is why you have to be extremely good at observing.
To become a Paediatrician, not only do you need excellent knowledge and observation skills but you also need to avoid being misled by those around you – find your own diagnosis.
Finally obtaining your GMC Registration after so much hard work is a very exciting time! What was your experience of applying?
I opted for OET because I’ve done IELTS in the past and it’s a very tricky exam. OET is also difficult because you’re examined against the time and not your English language knowledge, experience or accent. You have to be fast but as always, with practice you’ll pass.
A new job in a new country is very exciting! But what are you most excited about when it comes to working within the NHS?
As I’ve mentioned, the NHS is the best healthcare system in the world and so I would love to obtain a training post if I get the opportunity to.
What are you most excited about in terms of living in the UK?
The UK is brilliant! I opted to live in Yorkshire because I prefer the more relaxed, calm countryside compared to a busy city such as London. That being said, I will definitely be travelling to all major cities once lockdown is over – but it’s nice to be able to go back to a relaxed setting.
Life in a quarantine hotel must be interesting! How was your experience?
It was ok! I got three meals a day so I didn’t have to worry about food, which was a bonus! That being said, I was very bored! I appreciated the downtime, but I’m looking forward to getting started in work now.
Moving on to your experience of using a medical recruitment agency to secure your NHS role, how would you describe your time with ID Medical?
ID Medical was recommended to me by a friend, who used them to secure a job and who was also very happy with the service they received. I sent my CV over and someone from the international division called me immediately.
My experience with ID Medical was absolutely brilliant. Specifically, I would like to thank Amie and Phoebe who were there for me at every step of the way. Regardless of what questions I had, they always responded with speed and kindness.
Still to this day, they’re in contact with me and to be completely honest, without them – I would not be here.
How long did it take us to secure you an interview?
Shockingly, it took less than a week and not only that, I successfully secured the job!
What relocation support did you receive from us?
As mentioned above, ID Medical was there for me every step of the way.
When it came to accommodation, I was unsure of which option would suit me best. Phoebe from the relocation team kindly sent me an array of accommodation options, from hospital to privately rented choices. I really appreciated this as I was initially, quite confused as to what to go for.
In addition, when I arrived in the UK I had to quarantine in a hotel for 10-days. This process was rather confusing to me however, again, Phoebe was on hand to support me in filling out all the forms and how to book the hotel.
I would absolutely recommend ID Medical to not just friends, but to those closest to me, in this case, my wife who is a Cardiologist. I trust ID Medical; they guaranteed me the best offer and provided the best support.
To conclude with a question we ask all our doctors… If you weren’t practicing medicine, what career path would you choose?
I would absolutely love to be a chef!! Cooking to me is more than just eating; it’s an opportunity to have quality time with your loved ones and experience an array of culinary art at the same time.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Dr Al Laham. ID Medical wishes you every success with your new NHS career. As always, we’ll be here whenever you need us.