Interview: Alisha Moopen: 'The job of a humanitarian is never done'

In the first of a series on the work of descendants of UAE business leaders, Alisha Moopen, the daughter of Aster DM Healthcare’s founder Dr Azad Moopen, speaks about the firm’s philanthropic initiatives

Alisha Moopen, Executive Director and CEO for Hospitals and Clinics, Aster DM Healthcare.

Alisha Moopen, Executive Director and CEO for Hospitals and Clinics, Aster DM Healthcare.

Aster DM Healthcare/Handout via Thomson Reuters Zawya
While Alisha Moopen may be the daughter of Aster DM Healthcare’s founder Dr Azad Moopen, the executive director and CEO for hospitals and clinics has earned her title and her place in the family business. In recent years, she has been driving the company’s growth plans in terms of expansion and acquisitions across existing and new markets in the Gulf and the Philippines. She currently oversees operations for 90 clinics and nine hospitals in the Gulf, she has led the opening of two new Medcare hospitals in the United Arab Emirates and she managed Aster’s expansion into Saudi Arabia with the acquisition of Sanad Hospital in Riyadh.

While she may have trained as a chartered accountant, Moopen says she is a humanitarian at heart. Beyond planning the company’s next expansion drive, the 35-year-old says she would like to "leave a mark in gender equality and supporting other women [to] achieve their true potential".

Moopen credits her father, Dr. Azad, with teaching her about philanthropy, stating that he has dedicated 20 percent of his personal wealth to philanthropic activities aimed at improving people’s health and literacy.

Improving lives

In an interview conducted via email in September, Moopen explains: "The core essence of medicine and healthcare service provision is to improve the life and health of people, and profit is a by-product of the work we do."

"This has been a constant inspiration for me and continues to motivate us every day, as we operate our business," she adds.

Apart from the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of Aster DM Healthcare, Moopen is involved in philanthropic activities through a number of initiatives, including the Aster DM Foundation, her father’s family foundation and the MIMS Charitable Trust. She has also recently spearheaded the launch of the Aster Volunteers global programme and Aster@30 initiative - a series of events taking place in 2017 to commemorate the company's 30-year anniversary. This has coincided with the Year of Giving - a 12-month campaign across the UAE that celebrates social responsibility and philanthropic acts.

"Aster@30 campaign and Aster Volunteers global programme celebrates the spirit of Year of Giving and aims to make a positive difference in the lives of people not just in UAE but across Middle East, India and Philippines," says Moopen.

The Aster Volunteers programme connects those in need with volunteers willing to provide a helping hand. "We have 7,452 volunteers registered on the Aster Volunteers website, from nine countries," she explains.

Among the activities initiated so far, the programme has been involved in providing medical aid to refugees in Jordan, humanitarian aid support in Somalia, basic life support training, free diagnostics and free surgeries in various parts of the world.

In the UAE, Aster DM Foundation has supported the activities of not-for-profit bodies such as Al Jalila Foundation, based in Dubai, which focuses on research on diabetes, cardiac sciences, and oncology. It has also supported Al Noor Foundation, another non-profit body based in Dubai which supports ophthalmic surgeries for the underprivileged in Africa and Northern India.

Meanwhile, the Dr Aster mobile clinic, a service which provides free medical checks, has served 184,905 people in the UAE. In 2016, 44,528 benefited from the service across the seven emirates.

"There is so much work to be done, so it can be tough to accurately qualify what we’ve achieved so far. That said, the numbers are indicative of the work we’ve been able to accomplish," Moopen says.

Motivating stories

Moopen says that juggling her time between working on Aster DM’s expansion plans and pursuing philanthropic work "requires tireless action".

"I do my best to be constantly and consistently engaged. The job of a humanitarian is never done, so just keep going, keep doing what you can.

"We all need to give back, in whatever way we can. I am thankful that His Highness President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has drawn attention to the importance of giving this year."

Her interaction with those whose lives she is helping to change also keeps her going, she says. Although she said there are several inspirational stories, she shares one about Agnes - an 88-year-old woman from Bengaluru, India.

"Agnes had broken her leg in a fall, and was unable to afford treatment, until we were able to operate on her free of charge. Her strength of character, her graciousness and her spirit is something I found truly inspirational, and, I think, will continue to drive us as we take the [Foundation] initiative forward."

© ZAWYA 2017

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