Arbia Ziadi is an MBA graduate of the International University of Monaco. She grew up in Tunisia, where she studied forensic medicine, then moved to Canada to study neuropathology, neurosurgery and bioethics at the University of Montreal.
Having graduated from IUM in June 2014, Ms Ziadi is now helping the Cameroon Christian Welfare Medical Foundation achieve a sustainable turnover of voluntary doctors. She has enlisted the help of three other female graduates. Monica Lira, an executive MBA graduate who specialises in finance and psychology and fellow MBA classmates Kelly Campbell, who has a background in finance and psychology and Kimpal Patel who has a background in fitness.
1. What inspires you?
Life itself inspires me. Life is a precious gift, because we are alive. We can breathe, dream and aspire.
2. What academic achievement are you most proud of?
I used to say doing my medicine all over again in Canada was my biggest achievement. Now I say my MBA at the age of 40. I guess the best is yet to come.
However I consider every learning day in academia an achievement. The diploma follows and is not the ultimate goal. When I get out of a class and say what I learnt today changed my way of thinking and made me grow as a person, I feel proud of myself.
3. What do you enjoy most about working in medicine?
The high degree of altruism and the dedication to the other (the patient).
4. How do you deal with pressure?
I remain focused and smile.
5. What would you do if you were dean for the day?
Implement design thinking and innovation management in medical schools. In medicine, we are not trained to think outside the box. We think in one way: treat based on what worked before and is so far working. We evolve to become more and more isolated and our only vis-à-vis is our colleagues’ doctors.
However, technology is invading us and is constantly and rapidly changing. Challenges in access to healthcare and healthcare services are increasing and becoming more and more complex because of a constantly evolving society and needs. The great mobility of people makes it even more complex. Medicine as science, as practice and as social interaction need to incorporate innovation and creative thinking, and it has to become part of the medical culture and teaching. It should deal with everything: surgical treatment, pharmaceutical products, services to patients and patients’ satisfaction, mobility of medical doctors across borders, insurance schemes . . .
6. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?
“Arbia, you need a mentor,” said George Karpati, a late professor at McGill University. At that time, I was switching from neuropathology to neurosurgery. I could have made a great neuropathologist but my ambition and my sense of challenge pushed me to switch to neurosurgery. He sensed that ambition and talent are good but should not lead one astray.
7. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
In life: Praise the present moment, live it fully. We have a chance to make a difference in every encounter we make in our life. Don’t miss out, be compassionate, listen, love and especially forgive.
On the professional side: Do not be afraid to start all over again. You are already lucky to be able to do it again.
8. What is your favourite business book?
Grow from Within: Mastering Corporate Entrepreneurship and Innovation by Robert Wolcott and Michael Lippitz. Innovation as a discipline was the great discovery of my MBA. This book puts the framework to a successful innovative spirit, that is innovation should be aligned to a strategy.
9. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
I would have moved to North America early in my life and I would have only done neurosurgery as a medical specialisation. I am passionate about the human brain and its capabilities. Being exposed to the human brain makes me reflect deeply on the human condition in general. What can we do to protect the human brain from insanity? What can we do as a society to enhance the human brain and make it perform at its best and be its best?
10. What are your future plans?
My concerns in healthcare are: the quality of the hospital stay, access to healthcare, keeping healthy instead of treating and the harmonisation of the medical practice around the world.
For example, I was asked if I would volunteer as a medical doctor at the Cameroon Christian Welfare Medical Foundation for one year. As a doctor, I would have said yes but as an MBA student, I learnt to think beyond the mission and I realised one doctor per year was not a sustainable structure.
I decided to try to help manage this structure, so I thought of a list of doctors to create a turnover of volunteers covering the whole year with each doctor staying one to two months and being in contact with others overseas to discuss cases.
I also thought of involving the community – turning the hospital into a centre of interest. The cleaning and cooking could be done by locals, for example. That way they would be in touch with the medical team and learn how to diagnose early symptoms and when to see a doctor.
The children in the village could also come and decorate the hospital. They would get to learn and maybe love the medical practice so in future they become doctors themselves.
This article has been amended since publication to reflect that three MBA graduates will be helping Ms Ziadi on her project.