Group Quality Director – SEHA
Dr. Maya Mallat Yassine
“Women played a central role in the development of the healthcare industry”
Dr. Maya Mallat Yassine – Group Quality Director at Abu Dhabi Health Services Company – SEHA, believes that women played a central role in the development of the healthcare industry over the past years. ‘Hospitals’ magazine had the opportunity to meet Dr. Mallat Yassine.
You have an honorable career in the medical field and we would like to shed light on your career in the health sector? What are the main achievements?
I started my career in the health sector early on, right after I completed my first Master’s degree, which was in genetics and cellular biology. I was hired by an international consulting firm operating in multiple sectors of activity, including healthcare. I received hands-on training and intensive coaching on various topics such as hospital accreditation, quality management systems, restructuring and reengineering of processes, targeting performance enhancement etc.
A few years later, I progressed to working full-time within hospitals. This was vital to gain frontline experience and understand the daily struggles faced by healthcare professionals.
I then joined the regulatory body of Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) responsible to manage the licensing, compliance and continuous quality improvement of the services offered by the DHCC hospitals, outpatient medical clinics and diagnostic laboratories. The exposure and opportunity to work with global names such as Harvard Medical International, the International Society for Quality in Health Care and many others was truly a rewarding experience.
I was then fortunate to be hired by Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) at the time where the company was undergoing considerable growth. Given that SEHA is the largest healthcare network in the UAE with 12 hospitals, more than 40 healthcare centres and over 18,000 professional staff, the opportunities were endless.
I would say that my main career achievements were accomplished at SEHA, where I was able to help establish an integrated quality and patient safety framework that has significantly contributed to improving patient care outcomes. With the help of incredibly talented team members, we progressively established the pillars of the SEHA quality program, including a state-of-the-art performance monitoring system, a full-fledged automated incident management system and a comprehensive continuous quality improvement program to name a few.
On the personal side, the accomplishment of my doctoral degree from the Grenoble Ecole de Management in France was particularly gratifying. Juggling intensive studies with a full-time job and a family really pushed me to the limits of mental, physical, and emotional endurance. Although the journey was one of the most intense experiences I ever lived, the attainment of this degree was a pivotal point in my career.
We hear a lot about leading Arab women in the medical field. In your opinion, what is the importance of their presence and how have they contributed to the development of health strategies in place?
His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai once said, “A place without women is a place without spirit.” I couldn’t agree more. Women are the primary healthcare decision-makers at home, making 80% of buying and usage decisions.
It is also important to highlight that they constitute over 70% of the healthcare workforce, which is considerably high in comparison to other industries. Yet globally, they are underrepresented in healthcare leadership. In the United States for example, women make up only 30% of C-suite executives and 13% of CEOs, according to a report by global management consulting firm Oliver Wyman.
The same report highlights that healthcare, unlike other industries, does not have a “women in healthcare” problem, but a “women in healthcare leadership” problem. As per a McKinsey report from 2015, women are significantly underrepresented in C-suites and corporate boards across the GCC states. They are however making strides as companies in the region are increasingly recognizing the potential of women leaders to enhance organizational effectiveness.
Based on your years of experience, how do you assess the reality of women in the health sector today at the regional level?
I have personally had the opportunity to work with many of the most brilliant female healthcare leaders including Chief Executive Officers, Chief Medical Officers, Chief Quality Officers, Chief Nurses etc. over the past few years. These outstanding women executives and high achievers were instrumental in leading change and guiding healthcare delivery improvement across the country.
In fact, the flagship hospital of the health system I currently work for has a C-suite constituted of women in majority. Many of the health system’s hospitals also include women in their senior leadership teams and as chairs and directors of departments. Regionally, more countries are elevating women to positions of power. This does not only apply in the healthcare industry. A great example is Raya al-Hassan, recently appointed as the world’s first Arab female interior minister in Lebanon. Women may still be underrepresented in healthcare leadership positions however the future, in my opinion, looks bright.
How did women contribute to the development of this field in the past years?
I firmly believe women played a central role in the development of the healthcare industry over the past years. I have met so many exceptional female physicians and nurses practicing in the toughest fields of medicine as well as numerous talented and passionate pharmacists, allied health professionals and administrators.
Aside from their technical expertise, many have undeniable potential and are particularly poised for success in leadership roles for multiple reasons. The traits these natural leaders have in common are described in a book by Esther Wachs entitled “Why the Best Man for the Job is a Woman: The Unique Female Qualities of Leadership”.
The author examined the careers of fourteen top female executives to learn what makes them so successful. She discovered that women have many essential qualities as leaders, including those they use to keep families together and to organize volunteers to unite and make change in communities. Women usually have an inclusive, team-building leadership style and possess a unique ability to leverage traits such as empathy and transparency to lead organizations. Their strong communication skills make them highly persuasive and enable them to effectively get others to buy into their visions. Another extraordinary skill is their innate ability to multitask and quickly address simultaneous issues. I am surrounded by many women leaders with such noteworthy attributes. They truly create a great place to work and get the best out of employees to achieve operational excellence.
To what extent did the presence of women in leadership positions contribute to improving and enhancing the outcomes of the health system?
A Forbes report highlighted that women are at the centre of healthcare decisions in the family unit and experience the full spectrum of healthcare delivery. As leaders, women can bring first-hand customers views to improve experiences and make the healthcare system more user-friendly, convenient, and efficient.
The gradual inclusion of women in senior management teams has undeniably helped to ensure that healthcare decisions and policies are inclusive and representative. Additionally, studies have shown that companies with greater gender diversity at all levels and more specifically among senior leaders have better results and are more profitable.
I am privileged to be part of today’s transformational generation, which is progressively letting go of the gender role stereotypes. I am inspired day in and day out by role models who wear many hats and balance careers and households among other things. These women leaders dream big, challenge conventions and encourage others to follow in their footsteps. Their dedication, passion and drive bolster the importance of women in the workplace and help to progressively shift the perspective so that, quoting Sheryl Sandberg, “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders”.