Put your heart and soul into it: an interview with Naufa Damda

August 31, 2017
Naufa Damda

Naufa Damda is a physical therapist and co-creator of a medical startup, Scrubz, aiming to improve the quality of medical clothing, instruments and textbooks for health care professionals in the UAE. 

What is your current position?
I am a physical therapist and a certified life support trainer. My family and I began a health care entrepreneurial startup in the UAE seven years ago. We deal in medical clothing and small instruments, supplies and medical books. We also have a life support training center.

Can you tell us about your career path?
I got into the medical profession because I loved the subject. There was never a second option for me; this was my calling. I’ve also always wanted to serve the community, give back to where I come from. After I graduated, I married a resident doctor. We wanted to do something to bring about change; it started as a personal quest to get the best quality products, and then we realized that everybody wants that, so we thought why not offer that to healthcare colleagues? We wanted to provide at minimal cost because we knew the challenges they faced. We thought we could bring about a change in the mindset of medical professionals by changing how they feel about the tools they use and the clothing that they are in. We started with no experience on how to run a business; we just wanted to reach anybody and everybody. That experience, the first five years, the amount of things that we learned on the job—no school can teach you that.

What is your top career goal?
My long-term goal is giving back to the community in a big way. For every book sold, we donated a book for charity. We want to do this on a big scale—to deliver to those who are not able to access health care.

What is the biggest challenge you face in meeting your goal?
My biggest challenge is juggling my role as a mother and working outside our home. I have a 7-year-old daughter, and it is difficult spending timenot just limited ‘quality’ time—but giving her all the time that she deserves as my daughter. I think that is something that is very difficult although working with family means I have a flexible work schedule. I also am actively involved working long distance even when I’m in Baltimore. Being a mother was a great incentive to take a sabbatical from my career as a physical therapist.

Do you think you will be able to apply what you’ve learned in GHDI to your work at home?
Absolutely! When I get home each day, I call my husband very excitedly and explain to him what we learned in class and tell him, we’re saving this reading and we need to sit together and look at this and discuss this and see whom we can alliance with because if we really want to do something, we need to find the right channel to work with. So yes, definitely. I am going to talk not just to him but extended family and in-laws and see what direction we can work in. Getting to interact with the prolific faculty here at the GHDI program, along with wonderful colleagues from diverse backgrounds has been a truly inspirational experience.

What are you most proud of?
While still in medical school, I along with a group of student volunteers did activities to serve the community. We would set up health camps in different locations to raise awareness in the community about diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Back on campus, we initiated an awards ceremony to commemorate our teachers. We even collaborated with universities countrywide to get to know common student issues and launched a ‘by the students, for the students’ magazine that was circulated on various campuses. Serving the people is a concept that I truly value. I am also an AHA certified life support instructor. Whether I’m in Dubai or in Baltimore, I try to help family and friends using the knowledge and skills set I’ve acquired. That’s the main reason we came up with our company. And it has worked, We’re also really proud of our reach to students. Students were the population we served in the beginning and where we started from and we fit into the fabric of the student community and are a part of them.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in health care in your country?
No matter what field you decide to go in to, research extensively before you get into it. Do an internship and get a hands-on feel of what the work truly involves. I’ve been lucky that I got into something that I was so passionate about, but I’ve seen a lot of people who lose that passion when they get into something, it just fizzles out. Some people I knew in medical school are doing something very conventional, but those posted in rural areas, they are doing amazing jobs right now because what you can learn in the field, textbooks cannot teach you because context changes. Every situation is different, and in the case of humans, every human being is different. If medicine is your calling and this is what you want to do, then go for it; give it 100%; put your heart and soul into it. The satisfaction that you get at the end of the day of having made someone smile, having made someone’s life better, having alleviated somebody’s pain, nothing can beat that. It’s like you get more happiness out of gifting than receiving a gift, and that’s just so true. And I hope it has a ripple effect and those people continue to spread a smile on everybody’s faces.