Dr. Yasmin Abdulghafour

Dr. Yasmin Abdulghafour
By: null

As one of the few female COOs in Kuwait, Dr. Yasmin is a beacon of inspiration and encouragement in helping women break down barriers and challenge the status quo. In hosting an event to highlight International Women’s Month, she is helping to connect with women across her network. She added: “My mother was an inspiration as she was a strong and independent woman. She encouraged me to pursue medicine and believed in me. I learned anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it.”

Please introduce yourself.
I’m the Chief Operating Officer at Central Circle Company (CC). Before that, I worked as Director of International Health Relations and Director of Planning with the Ministry of Health. My primary specialism is family medicine.

Tell us about your education.
I completed my Bachelors of Medicine & Surgery in 2000, and the board of family medicine in 2008, with appointment as a member of UK’s Royal College of General Practitioners. I also undertook a Masters in Healthcare Administration.

What sparked your interest in becoming a doctor?
I had a keen interest in medicine as a child, and the ability to treat a person and cure specific ailments is what triggered my passion for medicine. I was also an academically inclined child, with a natural competitive edge and flair. So medicine seemed a natural career path.
Today, medicine is advancing at unimaginable speed, the incorporation of artificial intelligence is what interests me today: this hybrid model of medicine fascinates me.

Who were your role models who inspired you to go into family medicine?
My mother inspired me. During the Iraqi invasion of 1990, my father was taken hostage by Iraqi soldiers, and my mother was forced to manage alone, navigating uncertainty and standing tall in the face of adversity. My mother is an educated woman, who despite her fears, took care of our physical and psychological wellbeing. She was strong and fearless. I associated the same values with medicine, and these early childhood experiences solidified my interest in medicine. It was an opportunity to connect with people via treatment, something that continues to resonate with me today.

What piqued your interest in becoming active with various state projects related to healthcare.? Also please share some of the projects you were part of?
When I qualified as a family physician in the Ministry of Health – State of Kuwait, I observed that follow up care for chronically ill patients was somewhat missing in the primary care centre I worked in.
I proceeded to make a chronic care register, this was a system that triggered follow up care and ensured chronically ill patients were well looked after, ensuring that such patients were taking the correct medicine and being prescribed alternative treatments, to better manage their respective conditions.
This register continues to be used today. I am proud of this initiative as it captures the spirit of medicine, i.e. to care for a patient and ensure their aftercare is equally as well maintained.
It was then that I felt the impact I had as a physician was somewhat limited. I wanted to create a bigger impact, and be part of the planning and policymaking, and this was when I decided to take an administrative role.
It opened the door for me to be part of nationwide projects like “the Taqabal initiative”. I was part of the team that created it, the same was focused on mental health awareness, in collaboration with a local NGO.
I was adamant about promoting and making a success of the initiative, specifically, as I wanted to do more than merely attending patients in a clinic. It was an opportunity to cast the net far and wide, addressing an issue that is less discussed. The campaign was a roaring success in Kuwait and continues to be implemented today.
I also had the chance to play a role in healthcare diplomacy and worked with international health organizations and embassies of foreign countries in Kuwait on many health-related initiatives.
In my last post in the Ministry of Health, I worked closely with the supreme council of planning on the healthcare part of the national development plan, and it is then, I decided to move to the private sector. This was because I could see the healthcare sector changing in a few years, and the private sector will have a more significant role to play.

Why do you think strong healthcare can be an important pillar in developing the economy?
Healthcare is a fundamental human right and pillar of any society, primarily as we are all prone to illness. Appropriate healthcare and management are vital for the long-term health of the people working in the economy. The healthier the person, the more robust the economy.
Equally, with the correct planning, medicine can act as a sound preventative measure, tackling and limiting the long-term impact of various diseases. Looking at things from an economic and healthcare planning perspective, it is better to keep the population healthy using prevention than treat them for illness.

Tell us more about Central Circle Co (CC)?
CC was established in 1979, specifically to provide medical equipment and turnkey solutions for medical institutions in Kuwait. CC’s main objective is to promote ethical transparency, innovation and excellence within the medical industry.
CC has become the fastest-growing medical distributor in both medical equipment and pharmaceutical products within the country, with ambitious plans to expand into the GCC and global market soon. Notable achievements for CC include esteemed multinational appointments with 3M, Abbott, Astra Zeneca, Boston Science, Draeger, Johnson & Johnson, Phillips, Roche, Sano and many more.
The main component of CC’s success is the company’s ability to bridge the gap between the principal and end-user, facilitating a seamless service which adds to fortify CC’s standing as the leading medical distributor within Kuwait. CC has also been awarded a significant number of projects that relate to Kuwait’s long-term health care development plans and is now considered one of the top two medical distributors of choice by the Ministry of Health in Kuwait. In essence, this has been CC’s biggest achievement to date.
In short, CC is a robust and resilient company, and despite ongoing global economic instability. The management is committed to breaking down barriers to make medical treatment accessible to all.

What is the most challenging thing about being a Chief Operating Officer as a female?
I believe the most challenging role as COO at CC is balancing the needs and expectations of the upper management and staff. I am fortunate that my gender has not hindered my position in the company, but I find implementing change can be met with resistance.
This is inevitable as a stagnant system represents comfort; change is often associated with an overwhelming sense of resistance.
However, since the inception of my appointment as COO, my suggested ideas and progressive approach to change and advance have been met in a very positive manner by all company members.
I also take this opportunity to stress that being a woman should not hinder your ambition, if you believe you have the skills, then grab the bull by the horns and avail any opportunity for growth.
I am fortunate my family supported my decision to take up the position of COO. My husband, children and close colleges encouraged me to strive and be ambitious, and I am grateful. The support is what continues to encourage me, to continue to work harder and dream bigger.
Notwithstanding the above, senior management posts such as COO are dominated by men. I feel privileged and determined to break stereotypes to inspire women and prove that women can attend to such positions with meticulous care and attention.

From a leadership standpoint, where do you draw your inspiration?
From my mother: she was a strong and independent woman who knew her worth. She encouraged me to pursue medicine and believed in me, more than I did in myself. She was and continues to be a pillar of support in my life for which I am grateful. I hope to inspire my children and every woman I interact with. Anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it.

How do you balance work and family life?
Life is a balancing act; balancing work and family life is challenging, but not impossible. I have a wonderful husband, he is supportive and works with me, we work as a team, and ultimately, with the right support, anything is possible. I am also the mother of two teenagers, both can be a handful at times, but they are equally supportive, often giving me insight into how I can better myself as a mother and business professional.

How do you keep yourself updated?
I am an avid reader; I enjoy reading medical journals, articles relating to management, economy, technology, the news and the odd glossy magazine. I believe you should maintain a balance. Work and personal life balance are fundamental, to create peace of mind and allow for one to excel in both. The skill to perfect the balancing of both remains ongoing, but one must persevere.

What according to you, are your keys to success?
To work, to be meticulous and to ask questions. One must appreciate that you cannot be a master of any given discipline; you remain a disciple that continues to learn and grow.
I also believe the battle with the ego remains ongoing; one must always be open to learning and growing, learning from your seniors and subordinates is a continuous process. I believe discovering your purpose in life is essential, while it’s a unique journey for us all; the quest to search for such purpose will allow you to find several unique treasures in life.
Finally, life is full of success and failure. Failures are humbling experiences and opportunities to learn and better oneself.

If you could recommend one book to managers, which would it be and why?
I cannot recommend a specific book. While I am an avid reader, for me, management is very much a hands-on experience. You are at times are forced to think on your feet, to follow your gut and to use your work and life experience to resolve a complex problem best. The alchemy to the perfect manager is unknown; it is trial and error. One you will learn to master with time.

How do you wind down when you’re not working?
I enjoy exercising, specifically pilates, good food, travelling and reading. I believe in hard work, but equally, one should disconnect as it is vital for your mental wellbeing, ensuring success and longevity in the workplace and personal life.

What challenges have you experienced as a woman in business during your overall career?
As a woman, I believe we are at times viewed as less able, that is perhaps the biggest challenge we face. The requirement to prove yourself and your worth. However, this is not set in stone, persistence and perseverance pay dividends; you can reach the top, just believe in yourself and know your worth.

What are some of your hobbies?
I enjoy travel; it is the best opportunity to connect with people from across the globe, it allows you to engage with people from different cultures, to be exposed to different language and above all, to see a different part of the world. Equally, language fascinates me; it allows you to connect with people at a deeper level and tests your mental aptitude and patience.

Tell us more about the event that you intend to plan to celebrate International Women’s Day.
During my time at CC, I have worked with many talented women. The afternoon tea session is an opportunity to engage and open dialogue with all the women at CC, and more importantly, for them to feel appreciated and to enjoy some desserts with coffee. A chit chat in a relaxed environment is the best opportunity to get to know the women at the company and for them to get to know me.

Your message for women on the International Women month.
Believe in yourself, be ambitious and above all, know your worth.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
During my time at the Ministry, I was fortunate to be mentored by a brilliant woman, Dr Majda Al Qattan, former assistant undersecretary for Public Health, Ministry of Health. Dr Al Qattan always emphasized that as an individual grows and starts to touch the upper echelons of his/her respective career, one should always aim to elevate the associated persons who contributed to such success, i.e. to grow and progress your team, to make it inclusive and to grow as a collective, for divided it is discord and united, we are strong.

Your message for us at CP magazine.
Thank you for the opportunity to cover this event, to celebrate International Women’s Day and for making us feel proud to be women.

Directed by: Jameel Arif @jameelarif
Makeup & Hair: AlRumaih Beauty @alrumaihbeauty
Makeup: Danah AlFares @beautybydanah
Photographed by: Riyas Moodady @riyas_photokw
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