Dr. Hayat Ebrahim Al-Shiwafi “Pharmacology is a field suitable for working women” [Archives:1999/07/Interview]

February 15 1999

After completing her Elementary and Secondary studies in Kuwait, Dr. Hayat Ebrahim Al-Shiwafi, 28, returned to Yemen and graduated from Sana’a University in November 1993. Then she began working with the well-known PFIZER Company in April 1997. Dr. Hayat¬ is currently the District Manager of PFIZER after recently being promoted from her previous position as a Professional Medical Representative. She is a married Yemeni mother with two young children. She is very hard working, and hence has gone from success to more over the years.
The Yemen Times talked to her about her career and other interests.
The followings are excerpts from the interview.
Q: Where was your first work experience?
A: I had my first work experience when I started working at the Pharmacy Department of the Kuwait Hospital after my graduation from the Pharmacy College of Sanaa University in 1993. I gained managerial experience in regards to medical material through providing medicine to patients. I did this for 3 years.
Q: What did you do afterwards?
A: Since April 1997, I have worked with PFIZER as a Medical Representative. PFIZER is a famous international company that produces medicine.
Q: By leaving Kuwait Hospital, you chose to work in the private sector rather than the governmental sector. Why?
A: In order to prepare some medicines, working in the governmental sector is not enough due to the lack of medicine and the unavailability of even simple laboratories to be used for the development of primitive medicine products. On the other hand, working with a world-wide company like PFIZER gave me the scientific background and experience that strengthened my scientific abilities which I was almost beginning to loose when I worked in the governmental sector. Another advantage is that in PFIZER, we go through the latest developments in the pharmaceutical sector, and continuously update our knowledge in the field of pharmacy and medicine. Unlike in the governmental sector, in PFIZER we also have the freedom to implement our own ideas and proposals to enhance our performance in medicine and pharmacy. This is besides the huge difference between the salaries in the public and private sector. In the governmental sector of Yemen, promotions are only given to old hand employees. This in turn usually kills the hope in young talented workers of being appreciated for their quality work, and prevents them from further exploring their abilities. However, the private sector gives promotion to employees regardless of how many years they worked, but based on their hard work and productivity.
Q: What are the problems currently facing international pharmaceutical companies in general?
A: There are several problems facing our company, which can be summarized as follows:
1-The problem of medicine smuggling. Some pharmaceutical products with the same commercial brand name as ours are being smuggled through borders of neighboring countries. Our company gets affected negatively by these products because they are being sold for cheaper prices. These medicines get stored beneath soil awaiting being smuggled to Yemen, and due to the high temperatures and humidity they undergo, these medicines usually get harmed, and may damage the health of people using them.
2- Due to the economic hardships Yemenis are going through, their ability to buy our products is weak. This gives the advantage to other pharmaceutical companies to sell their cheap but ineffective products. In spite of that, since they are unaware of this, Yemenis continue buying these products which in fact are rejected in many countries.
3- Unfortunately, the Ministry of Health does not deal with pharmaceutical companies depending on their long history or reputation in the field of productivity and research. In other words, the ministry deals with all pharmaceutical companies alike, and in my view, this is unfair.
Q: What about people’s awareness of using medicine?
A: Awareness among Yemenis in regards to medicine usage in general is very low. For instance, in case patients do not find the required medicine in the prescription given by their doctor, they simply buy any substitute medicine, and this is wrong! The main reason behind this is the cheaper price of the substitute medicine. Of course, for the pharmacy owner, marketing the products in his store is more important for him than caring for the health of patients.
Q: What is the exact duty of Medical Representatives?
A: The duty of medical representatives is to visit doctors and introduce medicine being produced by their companies. Also in case of the doctor’s need of any research or study related to medicine, we help in presenting information of our own medicine products. In other words, we are the link between doctors and pharmaceutical companies.
Q: Is knowledge of a foreign language required in pharmaceutical companies?
A: Knowledge of English is necessary for medical representatives since it is used in dealing with customers, and for our daily correspondence. Students of the Department of Pharmacy in Sanaa University study in English. Hence, they usually do not face difficulty when working after graduation.
Q: Are pharmaceutical jobs suitable for Yemeni women?
A: Yes. The field of pharmacy is suitable for working women and gives them self-reliance and the ability to deal with people. We as pharmacists mainly deal with doctors, who are an educated class which understands our duty and respects the role of the Yemeni woman and her entrance into this sector.
Q: What are the job opportunities available for pharmacists in Yemen?
A: There aren’t many job opportunities in Yemen for pharmacists. The only available positions for these graduates are working in governmental or private hospitals as pharmacy salesmen, working in pharmaceutical companies, or establishing their own pharmacies. However, the high number of pharmacies in Yemen limits the chance of profitable pharmacy projects. Besides all of this, the limited number of medicine factories and laboratories has limited the number of job opportunities for Pharmacists.
Finally, a few years ago, governmental medicine institutions stopped employing Yemeni graduates, causing many pharmacists to be without work in the governmental sector.
Q: What are the conditions of admission in international pharmaceutical companies?
A: There are many conditions. The most important condition is to have a personality that can always renew, develop, self-motivate, and bring new ideas. At the end, a very small fraction of applicants usually get admitted.
Q: When admitted, do foreign pharmaceutical companies play a role in increasing scientific abilities?
A: Yes. As soon as we get admitted, we get trained and qualified by teaching us the information of the structure, efficiency, side effects, and latest researches of every new produced medicine. This information definitely adds to the overall knowledge we learned during our university studies.
Q: Do you think that the number of pharmacists is quite high in Yemen, especially that Yemeni universities graduate so many of them?
A: I do think that there is a build up in the number of pharmacists and other graduates in the public sector who are totally jobless. Hence, the government should encourage and distribute pharmaceutical institutions all over the republic through financial promotion. Another action that could help is to make admission conditions for Pharmacy Colleges stricter in order to increase the number of well-qualified pharmacists.
Q: Are there foreigners working in Yemen in the same field of yours?
A: There were many Arab pharmacists until the first group of pharmacists graduated from Sanaa University in 1993. Since then, year after year, Yemenis began taking their part in this sector.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: My main hobby is reading. In spite of my busy schedule, I still try to make use my leisure time for reading, especially that there is always new information involving pharmaceutical products.
Q: Any closing words?
A: I thank my father -may mercy be upon his soul- who always encouraged me and this personality. I also thank my husband who stood by my side everyday, and my mother who is always there for me.
These three are simply the reason for my success.