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Abu Dhabi: Meeting the Health Care Challenges a Half a World Away

April 15, 2012 Print

Despite distance, cultural differences, and occasional language barriers, McLean Hospital clinicians and their colleagues from the National Rehabilitation Center (NRC) in Abu Dhabi have found a common goal—to expand substance abuse treatment programs in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Long known for developing cutting-edge programs for the research and treatment of substance abuse, McLean put together an interdisciplinary team to travel to the UAE. Immediately upon arriving half a world away from home, the McLean representatives began a collaboration with their NRC colleagues to enhance already existing substance abuse treatment services and develop programs that would have greater reach and impact in the region.

“The NRC goals are so exciting. From the outset, the NRC was determined to be the best it could be, so the NRC leaders brought together an international team of experts to guide them,” said Nancy Hoines, MPH, senior director of Business Development for McLean and a member of the team working with the NRC. “While we were serving in the capacity of clinical and administrative experts, we were seated next to staff from throughout the Middle East. It was truly inspirational to look around the room and see people of all backgrounds, speaking multiple languages, working together to accomplish our mutual goal.”

Abu DhabiAccording to Philip Levendusky, PhD, ABPP, senior vice president of Business Development and Communications and director of Psychology for McLean, among the goals of the NRC were to expand services to women and adolescents, as well as to develop an education and advocacy campaign that would raise awareness of substance abuse and its treatment within the public eye.

Levendusky, who spearheaded the McLean work with the NRC, added, “We had been searching for the right opportunities to share our expertise and when this opening arose, we recognized immediately that it afforded us the ability to work with a dynamic organization with like-minded goals, while allowing McLean to aid in improving and expanding substance abuse services and clinical training on a global level.”

Recognizing an increase in alcohol and drug abuse among its citizens, the government of Abu Dhabi established the NRC in 2002. Today, it offers 70 residential beds and a range of outpatient services. According to the NRC Director General Hamad Abdallah Al Ghaferi, MD, MPH, there continues to be a growing need for substance abuse treatment services within the UAE. As a result, the NRC has initiated a comprehensive program development process to build a state-of-the-art multifaceted continuum of care by 2013, including 200 residential beds.

“The vision of the National Rehabilitation Center is to provide the best available treatment for substance abuse disorders in line with the most advanced international practices in the field,” explained Al Ghaferi. “To that end, we are thrilled to have McLean Hospital as a partner in this very important precedent-setting venture.”

At the outset of the collaboration, Levendusky and a team of clinicians and administrators from McLean and Partners International Medical Services—a Partners HealthCare group that strives to improve health care worldwide—visited Abu Dhabi, where they spent five long days fully immersed in NRC clinical programs, policy and infrastructure review. Following the site visit, the McLean team made recommendations and within months, the expansion plan gained traction, with best practices for policies and procedures implemented.

“When we arrived in Abu Dhabi, the staff and leadership could not have been more welcoming and eager for our review. The NRC had all the groundwork in place and was already doing excellent work,” said Christine Tebaldi, MS, RN, NP, director of Community Hospital Psychiatric Services for McLean, whose expertise in emergency and consult work was tapped into to assist the NRC with its intake and referral process. “We were there to partner with our colleagues and share our expertise as they implemented the process of growing their programs.”

Over the course of the next year, many miles were traveled as McLean staff visited the UAE once more and then hosted their colleagues from the NRC three times in Massachusetts.

In the winter of 2012, NRC nurses came to McLean for an intensive five-day “Substance Abuse, Clinical Service and Nursing Intensive Overview,” where they shadowed McLean nursing staff to learn firsthand the integral role nursing has as part of an interdisciplinary team.

“The nurses who participated in our overview are very dedicated and outspoken on behalf of their patients and are eager to take more active roles as part of NRC interdisciplinary teams,” said Nancy Merrill, RN, PC, program director for the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Program at McLean. “This has been a great project because there are absolute similarities between our two groups: dedication to our work and our desire to help people.”