Free medical care for talented Yemenis [Archives:2008/1133/Local News]

February 28 2008

By: Dr. Nizar Ghanem
[email protected]

My experience in giving medical care to Yemeni and Arab creative persons residing in Sana'a started as back as far as Aug 15, 1992. I started providing the service in a single room at Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi's clinic on Baghdad Street. The driving force behind that initiative that was unprecedented in any other country of the world was my appreciation for intellectuals and artists in general, and of those living in Yemen in particular.

Historical documents prove that they have spearheaded changes for the better as they struggled their way to revolution, liberation, renaissance and unity. As is usually stated, they cause their nations to be remembered thanks to their intellectual production, most of which will continue to crown the forehead of the nation. It was they who, for the first time, managed to build our country's NGOs by way of example and not limitation, for example with the Aden-based Arab Literature Club.

The credit is given to the Yemeni intellectual and artistic talents not only for initiating NGOs through cultural, social and corporate activities guided by their national illuminated thought, but a large number of them fueled the 1948 Revolution with their blood, which mixed with the blood of Arab martyrs. All of them contributed uniquely to the favorable transformation of Yemen. Even as expatriates, Yemenis were the first to establish associations and leagues overseas, whether in Cardiff, the United Kingdom or the Malay Archipelago. They gave rise to Yemen's school of expatriate writing.

In fact, the talented person is an inspired human being, whether from flowing creativity as direct inspiration, such as poetry, or dialectical creativity, such as criticism. Both are part and parcel of creativity and form its unlimited space.

My medical specialization prompted me to further explore the arguable relation between a man's sound health and his profession. In this regard, I recall the Arab literary saying: “Anyone whose profession is literature has been cursed.” Yet, even if I had had another specialization, I would have provided medical care for the talents of my country and their families out of my belief that “behind every great man is a great woman,” and behind the woman are the dear children, aren't they?

It may be surprising to learn that in America, there is a branch of occupational medicine called performing arts medicine. It is more amazing to learn that a scientist named Sellar found an ancient Egyptian papyrus dating back to 1500 B.C. explaining the effect of continuous playing on musicians playing on large instruments as it distorts the backbone.

Deciding to help artists and intellectuals, I have served my personal interest of self-satisfaction as I self-actualized by doing without expecting a return and reinforced my belonging to this society, as illustrated by Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

The Yemeni reunification brought with it numerous creative ideas and experiences, one of which may be the experience of opening clinics for the creative free of charge. In Sana'a, the free clinic was established by me and a number of fellow physicians in 1992, supported limitlessly by the Yemen Writers Union and in Aden by Dr. Hussein Al-Kaf in 1993. Then Assistant Dr. Abdul-Qadir Ruwaishid established a clinic in Al-Shahir city under the sponsorship of poet Hussein Abu Bakr Al-Mihdhar and after that in the Dhamar city by Dr. Abduh Al-Haj and later on in Ibb by Dr. Abdul-Wasi' Al-Areeqi.

I was encouraged to continue when I read news stories about artists and intellectuals appealing to the political leadership for medication as though it was a favor and not a right, despite the fact that the political leadership could not protect the intellectual property rights of talented Yemenis, who have always been a soft target for publication pirates in Beirut.

Having studied and taught preventive medicine, I realize that real health is not just the temporary absence of illness, but the sustainable health and reconciliation with the psyche and behavioral compatibility with others. It is the ability to love and work in harmony. Such a goal necessitates the marshalling of permanent specialized institutionalized services whose ownership belongs to the beneficiaries who must contribute even nominally to their property finances.

My idea raised comments around the Arab World. The Egyptian press dealt with it. I refer here to the words and discussion contributed by Egyptian doctor Hassan Talab along with a Saudi writer and an Omani artist. There were people who greeted the idea with criticism, such as Lebanese thinker Ali Harb, who waged a war on me in his book “Ends of Globalism”. I think he misunderstood me. Yemeni sociologist Sameer Al-Shameeri explained the subject to him in Aden-based Al-Ayyam Daily. I would like here to remind the readership that the late Egyptian physician and poet Ibrahim Najee did not dedicate his clinic to creative people. He just exempted them from fees and provided food before medicine to the poor.

We cannot improve the living standards of creative people unless we understand the special psychology that draws on the prototype of the creative character. Such a character may be disturbed with fatiguing existential cares. Preventive medicine attempts to neutralize the factors causing the ailment in the long as well as short term. It takes care of the family members of the creative person through the science of family medicine. Preventive medicine takes into account the artistic ego as a principle part of social and psychological tensions experienced by the creative person. Judging from my experience, I could say that only 5% of the cases provided with basic health services might require out-of-country medication

Dr. Nizar Ghanem is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Health and Culture Council, Sana'a