Dr. Ahlam Saleh Bin Breik:”I decided to study medicine the day my younger sister died because of diarrhea in front of my eyes.” [Archives:2007/1014/Front Page]

January 8 2007

Nadia Al-Sakkaf
She is a medical doctor, a university professor, a community activist, a wife and a mother of four, three boys and a girl. She manages the most difficult balance any woman can encounter: a successful marriage, a good career and a fulfilling community role. This is why Yemen Times has selected Dr. Ahlam Bin Briek as Yemen Times Person of the Year 2006.

Every year, Yemen Times selects one person whose efforts in making Yemen a better place are commendable and deserve praise. YT person of the year 2006 is a lady from Hadramout. She is a role model in dedication and commitment to bettering the society. Dr. Ahlam Saleh Bin Breik is a physician and a nutrition specialist based in Al-Mukala., where she as born in 1958. Although coming from a conservative society in Hadramout, Dr. Bin Breik did the unusual and travelled to Aden to earn her M.B.Ch.B from the University of Aden in 1983. She then continued her pursue of knowledge and got an M.Sc. degree in Applied Nutrition from the National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad, India in1988. Then in 2005 she was awarded a fellowship from the Sudan Medical Specialization Board.

We chose Dr. Ahlam Bin Briek this year because of her endless giving to her society and her commitment to help people. Through her work and even through other activities she has helped enhance her community's awareness regarding reproductive health, nutrition and medical issues.

When Ahlam was 12 she found a new dream about her future. It was a time when there were no female doctors in Hadramout and a time where health awareness was very low. Her younger sister had died in front of her because of diarrhea and her mother was admitted to the hospital because of reproductive health problems relating to her pregnancy.

Reflecting on her first day in college she said: “I remember the first day when I joined the college of medicine. During my meeting with the dean, Prof. Abdullah Hattab, he asked me why you want to study medicine? I told him I wanted to treat patients. He asked again: 'Only to treat patient?' I said yes. He insisted, 'What else?' I could not answer. So he told me, 'I hope that you think about preventing spread of diseases in the society.'”

From that moment I kept it in my mind, and with the course of time I realized that prevention and treatment can not separated. This is why; along with my profession as a physician, I became active in many social and awareness activities.”

Community service

Dr. Bin Briek dedicates a lot of her energy to motherhood and childhood health care. “Those sections of the population are neglected the most and I feel satisfaction with the work I do especially related to training in rural areas,” she said. Bin Briek participates in the nutrition and reproductive health care training and supervision of training activities in different districts in Hadramout, including Doan, Al-Ridah, Al-Shargeah, Sehuit, Al-Qutan, Tarim, Hager Al-Shahier and Sugatra.

“I feel very happy when I visit these districts after training and I meet the midwives whom we trained earlier. The community health guides and traditional birth attendants work very hard in their community, helping their people. I feel good when I see how I helped others become more aware, independent and capable,” she said, explaining her work in the districts.

Problems and challenges

“I face many problems in my work, but I always keep in my mind that the real success comes when you face problems and conquer the challenges,” explained Ahlam Bin Briek. She believes one should always view the problems from all angles and dimensions in order to be able to solve them and that one should ask people for their help.

However, the main problem she faces in her regular work is the absences of institutional work.

“There is no planning and in the rare event of any planning taking place it becomes difficult to implement because the planning we do is not practical,” she complained. Crisis management is the ongoing strategy used in dealing with issues in Yemen and this is why in her view, the effectiveness and efficiency of many programs is very low.

Behind every great woman is a great man

Dr. Bin Briek loves her work and this is what makes her overcome the obstacles and the difficulties she faces everyday. However there is another good reason why she is successful at what she is doing: her husband. She smiled while she said, “I have unequivocal support from my husband. He has helped me and stood by me throughout this journey.”

Give and take

Dr. Bin Briek has given a lot to her community whether to her students or her patients or her general neighbourhood. Dr. Bin Briek is associated professor at Hadramout University, College of medicine, working in the Community Department. Through her work in the college she has adapted the undergraduate medical education a new trend called problem-based, student-centered, community-oriented learning as the method of medical education.

The first part: problem-based learning is the basic human learning process that allowed primitive man to survive in his environment. Problem-based learning is a process whereby a student learns by utilizing problem as a stimulus to discover the information needed to understand the problem and hasten its solution the problem are the backbone of our curriculum.

The community-based education is a means of achieving educational relevance to health needs of community and utilize the community as an educational medium for training students, such training is most effective because it is carried out in close relation to the actual community in which they are to work after graduation. Hadramout University College of Medicine has adopted the community-based education strategy since its foundation; the curriculum is characterized by real implementation of primary health care concept, which is considered as the key to health for all.

The community based activities are called field training program and it is extended throughout the entire 6 year curriculum. Field training is integrated and complementary to other educational activity in the student-centered strategy, the students can decide under teacher guidance, what to learn, the method of learning, and the sequence and pace of learning.

Since the learning is self-determined and acquired through own study, the student becomes an active participant in the learning process and this provides motivation.

As the student is responsible for his or her own educational objectives, students acquire the ability to evaluate their own strengths and weakness.

Reflecting on why she has endorsed this type of education Dr. Bin Briek said, “This type of medical education put us in close contact with the community and allows us to feel the needs of our community and identify its problems.”

Currently, the university is establishing a new mother and child care hospital, this hospital will offer training for medical students and nurses, as well as good quality health services in the near future.

Dr. Bin Briek is also in charge of Hadramout society for fighting AIDS, which was established in 2004.

As to what she has gotten in return for all the work she does she commented:

“The society has given me respect and love and satisfaction which I see in eyes of many people and this makes me give more to my people.”

Ambitions for the Future

About her ambitions and future aspirations Dr. Bin Briek had many wishes.

“I have many ambitions and dreams,” she said, with her career ambition is to be able to provide good quality health services to mothers and children.

On a more general level, her wish was for Yemeni women to take their real position in society because they are independent and confident, taking matters into their own hands.

“I know that this will be achieved only through education and hard work in all fields, because rights are not easily granted, but are earned,” she said.

She also wishes for every mother to teach her children, especially the males to respect women. And that all types of discrimination against women are eliminated, for that we should follow Islamic rules, which gave women many rights.