Dr. Houriya Kazim, President and Founder
After attending medical school in Ireland, l returned to the UAE to intern at a government hospital in Dubai. There, I began treating women with the most advanced breast tumors I had ever seen - not even in medical textbooks. I learned that superstition, fear, lack of knowledge and mainly modesty, prevented many Emirati women from seeking treatment from the country's predominantly male medical establishment. In fact, at the time, there were no female surgeons in the UAE. I resolved to change that!
I pursued further training in General Surgery and Surgical Oncology at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London and the MD Anderson Cancer Unter in Houston, Texas and returned to the UAE as its first female surgeon. Motivated by what I’d seen during my internship, I created an ambitious outreach program to educate women about breast cancer, taught them about breast (and body) awareness, and offered treatment advice and options.
In 2006, I opened the country’s first Well Woman Clinic staffed exclusively by women for all women's healthcare needs. I also established Brest Friends, a charity organization which includes the first breast cancer support group in Dubai. In 2015, Brest Friends partnered with Al Jalila Foundation, a non-governmental organization established by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The joint mission is to promote early detection of breast cancer, expedite support with medical treatment and research into the epidemiology of breast cancer in the UAE and the region.
Dr Kazim recently received the Arab Woman Awards for Medicine and was nominated far the U.S. Secretary of State's Award for International Women of Courage. Her culturally sensitive and myth-dispelling approach has drastically reduced the number of advanced cancers in the UAE.
Each year, The One Hundred, an initiative of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston, honors 100 individuals and groups – caregivers, researchers, philanthropists, advocates and volunteers from around the globe – for their commitment to the fight against cancer. Dr Houriya Kazim was one of the 100 honorees for 2015. Dr Kazim is a freelance writer on women's health issues and has been featured in a number of local and global publications.
Al Jalila Partnership
Al Jalila Foundation, a global philanthropic organisation dedicated to transforming lives through medical education and research, was founded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Dubai, to position the UAE at the forefront of medical innovation. Through A’awen (support in Arabic) Al Jalila Foundation provides financial support for the treatment of hundreds of patients every year, including women with breast cancer. 100% of donations are invested into medical research, education and treatment programmes in the UAE. For more information please visit: www.aljalilafoundation.ae
Brest Friends Board of Directors
LINDA BERLOT, Vice President and breast cancer survivour
Linda is a breast cancer survivor who is now living a fulfilling life working in the UAE leading a Team Coaching organization, where she works closely with leadership teams across the globe. She is a tireless campaigner and provides help, support and information to breast cancer patients and survivors. Along with 4 other powerful women, I sits on the board, as vice chairperson of a non-profit charity organization, Brest Friends, that provides support to breast cancer patients and survivors.
Linda has always viewed her challenge with breast cancer as a gift, a turning point in her life, one that gave her the opportunity to change and grow. In the years since being diagnosed, Linda took part on a mountaineering expedition in Antarctica to raise awareness for the cause, she has climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, kayaked 250 Km around Zanzibar Island and continues to embark on many new adventures. She continues to accept challenges that she would never have considered before and strives to live a full and fulfilling life.
Since her journey with breast cancer Linda has dedicates much of her time to creating awareness in our community, of the importance of being proactive towards our health and creating conversations about subjects such as cancer that are often too taboo to be discussed in the culture we live in, in the hopes that this raises awareness and empowers the women around her to be proactive about their health. She is a powerfully motivating public speaker and openly shares the lessons she has learned in the hopes these may influence others to live fierce and fearless lives, and In 2017 Linda created RISE, an initiative that focuses on delivering programs that encourage women to regain confidence in their own bodies post trauma, by working through their mental and emotional distress to become empowered, and focus on achieving physical goals so that they may re-claim their self-confidence and regain control over how they choose to face their destinies, and live fierce and fearless lives.
In her capacity as a Board member for Brest Friends, and committee member, she is passionate about supporting our members and providing an environment where our ladies may talk and share their stories and views and have an opportunity to support each other!
Dr. Melanie Schlatter PhD, Secretary
I am from New Zealand and have called Dubai home for over a decade. When I first arrived in 2006 after completing an Honorary Research Fellowship at the University of Auckland, I was the only Dubai licensed Clinical Health Psychologist here. With a background in pharmacology, PhD research in the psychoneuroimmunology of breast cancer, as well as publications in several leading international journals, I was specially trained in helping adults overcome health-related psychological issues. However, for such a dynamic and growth driven city, I noticed that due to cultural, familial and personal reasons, many people did not have a safe network to open up to about their cancer experience, nor were support facilities available. I was privileged to join Dr Houriya Kazim at the Well Woman Clinic in 2008, which enabled me to start helping people in need, whilst simultaneously working hard to educate the community about the role of psychology through various media channels. In 2010, I took on an active role in Brest Friends, organising monthly meetings for the ladies; and from 2015 onwards, as Board Member and Secretary, I have continued to work on the promotion of research, treatment and support of those with breast cancer in the region, so that help can be sought sooner, rather than later. This has proven to be extraordinarily successful and tremendously rewarding.
Brigitte Chemla, TREASURER and breast cancer survivour
I am a French National and I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2007 while living in Dubai. I was devastated and cried for a night. I lost complete faith in myself and in my body, but then I decided that this was not going to get me down. With the help of amazing doctors, I had a mastectomy of the left breast and chemotherapy, as well as 1 year of Herceptin; and six months after my last chemotherapy treatment, I decided to regain my lost faith. I started learning karate, ballroom dancing and scuba diving. None of those sports were ever in my agenda before, yet sport was a way to regain my lost faith.
This is when I discovered Brest Friends. I was able to meet with other ladies, some of whom did not have any financial, emotional, or social support; and many had been through the same as me. They helped me believe that not only would I survive, but that there is life after cancer too. In this way, Brest Friends made me think a lot about my past, and it guided my future too.
When I was younger, I spent 10 years of my life dedicated to working in various charitable organizations, predominantly in India. Besides physically helping prepare food for over 21,000 needy people each weekend, I helped to raise funds which resulted in the opening of hospitals and clinics in small villages and schools. Back in France, I then got a Master’s degree in Philosophy and a degree in Psychology, moving into the management of various businesses there. I then went back to India for a further 5 years for more charity work; and when I came to Dubai in 2006, I held the position of CEO and founder of a French based health insurance company. I saw the need to educate people and corporations about the importance of proper health insurance, especially in the GCC—taking a policy before you are diagnosed with illness, and not afterwards. I then moved into owning my own health insurance company in 2015. This was a big challenge for me, but challenge is my motto in life!
Brest Friends has been a life saver for me, and it was only natural to join with Dr Houriya and Brest Friends and to give back everything I got. For many years now, I have been a very active member of the Board and Committee, holding the position of Treasurer. I also now have a black belt in karate; am proudly competing in ballroom dancing, both in the UAE and abroad; and I love scuba diving too!
nihal aboushousha, manager, partnerships & sustainability AL JALILA FOUNDATION
I am from Egypt and have lived in Dubai for several decades with more than 20 years of experience working in multi-cultural healthcare environments. I always knew I wanted “to help people” and with healthcare being the obvious career choice I became a dentist by profession and over the years my career has taken me from medicine to corporate and now, philanthropy. My role at Al Jalila Foundation includes identifying a pool of donors, sourcing and managing fundraising campaigns and initiatives whilst aligning activities with the Foundation’s objectives. What I never imagined was how rewarding managing the breast cancer program would be as we are able to offer hope and healing to countless women diagnosed every year by investing in breast cancer research and providing treatment to patients in need. Through Brest Friends I have met the most incredible, brave, inspiring women who have fought the toughest fight of their lives and have come out of it stronger, more determined and with an unwavering commitment to help other women in the same situation.