A History in Healthcare

by BTM

Thu, 01 July 2021

A History in Healthcare

Corporate CEO and Chief Medical Officer at American Mission Hospital (AMH), Dr. George Cheriyan takes Farah Baig on a journey through the hospital’s illustrious history, plans for growth and drive to remain one of the most advanced healthcare providers in the Kingdom.

The American Mission Hospital has a long-standing history in Bahrain’s healthcare sector. Could you highlight the relationship that Bahrain and the US have through the hospital?
Our hospital has played a critical role in US-Bahrain relations. In 1892, a man from New Jersey, Dr. Samuel Zwemer, sowed the first seeds of modern healthcare in Bahrain on his arrival. Following his continuous requests, Dr. Sharon J Thoms and his wife, Dr. Marion Wells Thoms, who should rightly be called ‘the first modern physicians of Bahrain’ were sent by the Arabian Mission in 1900.

The then Hakim of Bahrain, Shaikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa, the great-great grandfather of our current ruler His Majesty King Hamad, helped them purchase land officially following which they constructed the Mason Memorial Hospital.

We must always remember that long before Bahrain found oil in 1932, and long before US naval forces stationed their fifth fleet here in the 1970s, Americans were coming and serving in this country, and it was through this historic hospital. Many have lost their lives to diseases contracted here, and died in the line of duty. In a way, American doctors and nurses had set a base for establishing an effective healthcare system, not only in Bahrain, but also across the region we now know as the GCC.

In the early 1900s, many AMH healthcare workers had died treating patients of cholera, typhoid and various epidemics that hit Bahrain during those times.

Are there any collaborations with medical associations in the US and otherwise in the pipeline? Will there be any exchange of medical expertise?
We will be having collaborations with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), which is the second largest children’s hospital in the US. We are also looking at a partnership with the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London, which can provide tertiary level consultation services.

Tell us about the hospital’s recent US accreditation. 
In May, we became the first private hospital in Bahrain to win a College of American Pathologists (CAP) Accreditation – an accreditation that medical labs around the world aim to achieve.  CAP evaluates and certifies best practices in pathology and laboratory medicine. Our lab worked hard to ensure our quality systems are all in place to earn this coveted accreditation.

How does the hospital remain one of the most advanced and state-of-the-art facilities on the island?
We have always been quick to embrace new medical technologies and their applications in healthcare. It might interest your readers to know that in 1940s, the first X-ray machine in all of the Arabian Gulf was brought by the American Mission Hospital, Bahrain. It was only 10 years later, when government healthcare facilities were becoming more robust, that the Naim Hospital acquired one.

Could you tell our readers about the latest expansion in A’Ali? 
The King Hamad American Mission Hospital in A’Ali is a USD70 million, 775,000-square-foot hospital. It will include an eight-bed intensive care unit (ICUs), 17-bed neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), outpatient unit, 20-bed urgent care unit, six-bed labour/delivery/recovery unit, and five modular operating rooms. The new hospital will open in October 2022 and is going to be a teaching hospital, with some parts built specifically for this purpose.

This eco-friendly, solar-run project will also include underground parking for 500 cars, a 129,000-square-foot staff accommodation building, and landscaped garden area.

How has the hospital been instrumental in the Kingdom’s fight against COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic? 
We had to be innovative and agile. We leveraged technology to provide virtual consultations, adapted to the pandemic quickly and set up a Covid-19 Task Force within the hospital. 

Sadly, our team member Dr. Solomon became the first physician in Bahrain to die of Covid-19 in June 2020. He must’ve contracted it while treating patients in Zwemer Clinic.  And, as I had mentioned in the beginning, he is now counted among the many physicians of AMH who lost their lives in the line of duty.