College: Hamilton College, New York; Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
Current City: Dubai
From the start, Dr. Omaima Ataya knew she would work in medicine — and specifically, in pediatrics. “I never really thought about any other field,” she says. “I enjoyed a lot of my internships that were totally unrelated, like trauma surgery and dermatology, but I knew that working with kids was my calling.” She followed that calling, and after university in New York, medical school in Virginia, and a residency in Boston, she returned to her home city of Dubai with her husband and family in 2010, where she worked as a much-loved pediatrician at a local clinic. Currently, she has a new role — as an alumna of American School of Dubai’s first K-12 graduating class in 1994 and now an ASD Legacy parent, she feels right at home in her new position as the head of the school’s Health Office.
“I enjoyed a lot of my internships that were totally unrelated, like trauma surgery and dermatology, but I knew that working with kids was my calling.”
Dr. Ataya works with four nurses and an administrative assistant to provide health services to ASD students throughout the school day, during after-school activities, and at weekend athletic events. Her team also offers classroom education, handles student immunization records and medical check-ups as required by local regulations, and takes a hand in planning the annual middle school and high school Freedom from Chemical Dependency program.
“[My favorite subject at ASD] was Physics. We had the famous Ms. Roules who was a legend at ASD. She was well known for her creative teaching style and animated personality. During Physics class, you could find us in the field shooting each other with potato spud guns to calculate projectile velocities or designing and building cars powered by mousetraps.”
Further, her office helps facilitates wellness on school-sponsored trips through the INSPIRE program which take students everywhere from eco-adventuring in Bali, to climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, to seeking out the northern lights in Iceland. So the office keeps busy! But we caught up with Dr. Ataya long enough to ask her about her time at ASD and get to know her a little better...
Q&A with Dr. Omaima
“I attended Hamilton College in New York, where I completed a double major in Biology and French. I also completed all my premedical school requirements so that I could then apply to medical school to become a pediatrician. ASD prepared me so well academically that I was able to place out of most of the first-year requirements in university. I was especially well trained in writing, thanks to the very rigorous reading and writing program. More importantly, however, I felt that ASD helped me become a more confident, empathetic person, which were attributes that made my journey throughout medical school, residency and beyond as a pediatrician more genuine and purposeful.”
“Believe it or not, it was Physics. We had the famous Ms. Roules who was a legend at ASD. She was well known for her creative teaching style and animated personality. During Physics class, you could find us in the field shooting each other with potato spud guns to calculate projectile velocities or designing and building cars powered by mousetraps.”
“My favorite book of all time is Le Petit Prince by Saint-Exupery. I’ve read it many times in both French and English. I love the way the author explores deep themes of betrayal and self-destruction with such simplicity. The book captures the real beauty of childhood. We start off in our youth wearing clear lenses, but sadly they can get murky as we get older. One of my favorite lines from the book is “On ne voit qu’avec le coeur; l’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux,” which speaks to the clarity we can have if we resist judging appearances but rather allow ourselves to be guided by the kindness of our hearts.“
“My Biology professor at Hamilton College who was also my advisor once said, ‘You don’t have to be great at everything. Look at me, I’m the expert in snails’ radulae (tongue-like feeding structures). Pick something you love, dive in and learn as much as you can about it.’ I think that’s great advice because it highlights the fact that we all have different strengths and passions. Rather than focusing on negative thoughts, we ought to channel our energy into working hard in order to attain our goals. If we follow our dreams and our passions, then we can make a bigger impact because we truly care about our work.”
“One of the most magical moments I have ever experienced was taking a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I don’t think I could articulate the sheer beauty and majesty of this wonder of the world. If it’s not already on your bucket list, I would put it up there at the very top.”