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City Club Program Promotes Goodwill Between Cleveland Clinic and United Arab Emirates

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On the afternoon of June 21, 2018, we went to the City Club of Cleveland to attend a program about relations between between Ohio and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It mostly centered around the very constructive relationship the Cleveland Clinic has with the UAE, having opened Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi in May of 2015.

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Accordingly, the forum consisted of a conversation between Dr. Tomislav Mihaljevic, M.D., President and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, and His Excellency Yousef Al Otaiba, Ambassador of the UAE to the United States. The conversation was monitored by Ms. Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, whom we have talked to on occasion at Cleveland Council on World Affairs events. She is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Malta.

During lunch, we sat with Mr. Neil Kapur and Miss Rhea Kapur, two high school juniors who are the children of Mr. Sanjiv K. Kapur of Jones Day, who is now based in Brazil. The two of them now live in Brazil, too, but were visiting Cleveland and wanted to attend this program because they studied the UAE at school. They recalled attending the holiday parties put on by Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC, as their dad and Ms. Wong are good friends.  

Dr. Mihaljevic and Amb. Al Otaiba spoke of how the successful movement to create the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (a partnership between the Cleveland Clinic and the Mubadala investment company) was probably initiated when the now-deceased Shiekh Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, was treated at the Cleveland Clinic here in Cleveland in 1999-2000. They spoke of how the parties involved learned to trust each other, then subsequently formed a vision for Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, and worked backwards to realize it. Any other way wouldn't have worked, because they were committed to do whatever it took to create a premiere medical facility and would settle for nothing less. So in the end what was created was a superb enterprise that serves 40,000 patients from 70 countries each year.

As Dr. Mihaljevic contended, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is a testament to healthcare diplomacy, meaning that by the creation of such an institution the United States enhances its image abroad. What's more, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi itself is composed of 5,000 caregivers from 80 different countries and they respect each other's cultures; classes/seminars were given in which all staffers from doctors to office workers learned to positively interact with each other. The biggest problem encountered in terms of enlistment was not security or safety fears, but finding the proper school for the children of those planning to work there.

Amb. Al Otaiba talked about security concerns and the relationship that the UAE enjoys with its surrounding neighbors, which is sometimes a bit shaky. Nevertheless, the UAE is visited by millions of tourists each year and is a very progressive society, especially in terms of the status of women. He also spoke of his willingness to interact with other Ohio businesses in the areas of agriculture and manufacturing by possibly putting together an appropriate trade delegation.

To be sure, the Ambassador readily admitted it is quite a challenge to clean up the negative image of Arabs/Middle Eastern people that the media/entertainment business has fostered over the years. In response to this, Dr. Mihaljevic grinned and said that Cleveland has enjoyed a not-too-positive image over the years either. Both panelists then agreed that the best way to overcome such an image was to invite people to visit, which is what we, ourselves, did when we first came to Cleveland in 2008; 10 years later, we are still here.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison

Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC

Aimee Jannsohn