Monday, March 13, 2006

CW Interviews: Haitham Salman,MD B.Med Sc, M.B.B.S, ABCP, MRCP, FAAP…

Bahraini Haitham Salman isn't just a specialized highly trained doctor. Heck no. Besides being a husband and father, he and his family are perhaps the only native Bahraini's (besides 1 other familiy) in the great State of Alaska. The furthest north State of the U.S., and one of only two US states that are not connected to the mainland. For those of you who might want or need a little geography lesson!

Besides being a TOP NOTCH medical professional, Dr. Haitham is also one of the best Table Tennis players in the US, and the current Alaska Table Tennis Open Champion. You might say his healing hands are fast hands as well! If you have ever seen these guys go at it you know what I mean. Forest Gump anyone?

There is much more to the man of course and CerebralWaste was lucky enough to catch the good Dr. and get him to sit down and bang out some answers to a few questions that came to mind. It also seems the blogging "flu" has caught up to Dr. Haitham as well as you can witness what is possibly the newest entry on the Bahraini blog scene, aka Bahraini in Alaska. Dr. Haitham's blog where he comments on everything that seems to come to his mind. It is a very refreshing read and one all should make a daily stop at.

CW thanks Dr. Haitham Salman, MD for taking some time out of his Pediatric filled hectic days and doing this interview. I hope you enjoy it as well. Did he say something about there being SHAWARMA in Alaska???? Read below and find out!

What made you decide to become a doctor?
I was interested in science and at an early age and I thought medicine is a field that uses multiple scientific fields to help people and alleviate suffering. Also the good social status of physicians was a factor.
Where did you attend Medical school?
Arabian Gulf University (AGU), Bahrain.
Of all the places on this Earth how did you wind up in Alaska?
Long story! But the short version; after 5 yrs of residency in Bahrain in which I got certified by the Arab board and MRCP(UK), I decided to come to USA for training on my own but I had to do it all over again! So I repeated a pediatric residency then did a fellowship in Pediatric Critical Care. One year prior to finishing my fellowship, I got an offer from Alaska as a pediatric intensivest. I had visa restriction that limited my opportunities to under served areas only. But almost all the under served states were looking for primary care physicians and I was over qualified for these positions. Alaska had a unique situation in which it was under served and in need for both primary and sub specialists. On the other hand, I was frustrated from the unhealthy environment in the hospital back home, with countless obstacles, which included among others an evaluation period 6 mo-1 yr or more before appointed as consultant. I got more frustrated to know that ministry of housing repossessed my land as I could not build it while I was in training. So, weighing my options, I decided for Alaska. However, due to the major changes that took place after 9/11 it took over 18 months to get my visa.
How do you find life in general in Alaska? Satisfying?
I am living in Anchorage, which is one of fastest growing cities in the US. This is a typical American city with all the usual malls and giant stores and fast food restaurants, but on a smaller scale. Also, it offers unique experience as the wilds Alaska is just few steps away. For those who love nature, hiking, fishing, hunting and winter sports; Alaska will be a dream comes true. Yes it is satisfying.
Alaska is a far cry and reach from what many in the lower 48 states would consider a livable. Have you been accepted by the locals?
Anchorage population (260,000) is mostly Caucasians (72%), blacks (6%) and natives (7%). I work at the Alaska Native hospital which is the referral hospital for the natives from all over Alaska. So, all off my interactions at work is with native kids and their families. And since I take care of very sick kids on life support, the interaction with the families at crisis is of vast importance. They showed acceptance, trust and a lot of respect which very much part of their culture.
I think we all can figure out how different Alaska and Bahrain are climate wise, but is Bahrain similar to Alaska in any way?
Despite the huge difference in the area between Bahrain (691 sq miles) and Alaska (656,425 sq miles, Alaska being the largest state in USA and twice the area of Texas) both share the same population! One more thing in common is the big petroleum industry. I tried, but that is all what I could come up with.
Are you aware of any other Bahraini's besides your family in Alaska?
Actually, there are two other physicians in Fairbanks a pediatrician and a radiation oncologist (a brother and a sister) both graduated form the AGU. They are of a Palestinian origin.
Did you find the contrast between one of the hottest climates on the earth (Bahrain) a hard adjustment to the harsh cold winter that can never seen to end in Alaska? How about the near 24 hours of daylight/darkness?
The contrast is obvious. However, Anchorage has a milder weather compared to the rest of Alaska, but still freeeeeezing. Winter sports make winter more livable. Depression is quite common with very short daylight. It has not affected me yet. The summer is really nice, but too much daylight. It gets hard to sleep when it is still sunny at 1 am!
When do you plan on leaving the US and would you consider returning to practice medicine?
This is hard question to answer, but hope to return and provide a service there when the professional atmosphere is more welcoming and fair.
If or when you return to Bahrain what do you plan to do and have you been keeping abreast of the medical happenings in Bahrain?
Well, my specialty is hospital based. And I follow closely all the ups and mostly downs of medical happenings in Bahrain. Also, we have a Bahrain Doctors Yahoo Group that kept us all in touch.
Considering the hours you work as a physician and the added stress and demands of having a family why did you start to blog?
I work in clusters, few days on then few days off. This gave me some time for the family, sport, reading and of course surfing the internet. I used to browse most of the discussion websites and local newspapers. Then just couple of months ago, I stumbled into “In My Opinion” blog for Amira Al Husaini. I found her writings very interesting, so I started commenting on her blog. One time I had long comment so she nicely said “get your own blog!”. I started blogging just 3 wks ago. To till you the truth I did not think I would be even noticed! And here you are showering me with questions. Blogs do provide alternate unregulated, uncensored avenue for news, opinions and discussions that goes beyond the still restricted newspapers, actually it can complement traditional journalism. Also the interaction with other bloggers with similar interests is exciting.
Could blogs or blogging find a viable place in the medical world? How?
I don't see a role in providing medical literature or scientific views. As those belong to peer reviewed medical journals. But certainly it could provide a lot in the human and ethical aspects of medicine.
What blogs (other than this one) do you frequent?
I think Mahmood’s Den is the major bus stop for all Bahraini bloggers! in my opinion, Chan'ad, Sillybahrainigirl, Manama Republic and the hilarious Zarnoog Bahrani
How do you feel about the current political and economic reforms in Bahrain?
Your question is just too broad! So I will divert my answer to few hopes; more power to the parliament with voting on legislation restricted to elected council only. I hope it will be more representative and vibrant as no more boycott. I think embracing few American principles would really work; equal opportunity employment, equal opportunity housing and lesser government role to name few.
And the most important question have you found and good shawarma in Alaska?
Actually I did, but it is served in a plate! Recently a Turkish restaurant was opened; yammi.


Blogger SillyBahrainiGirl said...

Yey!! Another great interview CW, with an amazing larger-than-life Bahraini!!

March 13, 2006 6:16 AM  
Anonymous Mahmood Al-Yousif said...

Nicely done!

Thanks to both of you for this interview.

March 13, 2006 10:01 PM  
Anonymous the Colonel said...

You forgot to ask if he's ever seen "Northern Exposure"! Great interview otherwise.

March 15, 2006 3:50 AM  
Blogger Cerebralwaste said...

SBG and Mahmood I thank you both again and publicly for all of your support. I wouldn't be blogging if it wasn't for Mahmood and I wouldn't be interviewing people if it wasn't for SBG.

Colonel, DAMNIT I knew I forgot something!!! Well Dr. Haitham do you or have you watched Northern Exposure??????

This interview was kind of tough to do from a standpoint that I knew precious little about Dr. Haitham going in to it so I had to formulate questions based on very little prior info being available. .... Bahraini... Doctor..... Alaska....All in all I think the interview was solid and I am proud to have done it and thankful that Dr. Haitham agreed to step up to the CW hotplate! More interviews are on the way!

March 15, 2006 5:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a very interesting interview. So cool to know that he graduated from AGU where I am currently studying in.

Shawarma rules! ;D

July 20, 2006 2:42 AM  
Blogger Cerebralwaste said...

Thanks for stopping by! And YES SHAWARMA RULE! I love them and miss them and I can't wait to return to Bahrain and have a dozen or so as soon as I get off the plane!

July 20, 2006 5:56 AM  

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