Dr. Saad Saad served as the personal pediatric surgeon for the Saudi Royal Family and for the very poor with complex pediatric surgical problems from 1985 to 1989. He was able to accomplish much during his four-and-a-half-year tenure in Riyadh and he was willing to share some of his story with me.
I got to interview Dr. Saad over the phone. Before the call, I was told that Dr. Saad is a very logical, straightforward man and that his answers would be brief and to the point. So, I quickly took a look through my notes to make sure I had enough questions for him to elaborate on and that I could guide the direction of the call.
However, that was completely unnecessary. Dr. Saad Saad spoke passionately about his time in Saudi Arabia, answering each question with lots of detail and genuine excitement, leaving me to simply listen and take notes.
How Dr. Saad Became the Pediatric Surgeon for the Saudi Royal Family
As you might expect, the position of the personal pediatric surgeon for the Saudi Royal Family as well to treat the very poor with complex pediatric surgical problem is a prestigious title to acquire. There are very few people in this world who have the experience and the knowledge necessary to satisfy those job requirements. But that is exactly why Dr. Saad was personally chosen to fulfill that position.
Dr. Saad’s unique qualifications led him to receive a phone call from an American medical recruitment company. At the time, Dr. Saad was the only board certified pediatric surgeon in the United States, who fluently spoke Arabic and English. In the US, board certification is hard to get. It requires special training, continuous surgical practice, and passing a rigorous exam every ten years. The combination of his experience and his language skills is what led to Dr. Saad being offered the position noted above.
For almost anyone, moving to a different country—especially Saudi Arabia—would be a difficult transition. So, at first, Dr. Saad went to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for a month to find out more about the job. He said that he was treated like royalty during his initial time there and that he felt very comfortable because he knew Arabic. He was never out of place in Saudi Arabia. Of course, this was also a golden opportunity for his career, given that very few people ever get the chance to work for the Royal Family.
Dr. Saad took the job in 1985 and stayed in Riyadh for the next four-and-a-half years.
Dr. Saad’s Duties and Accomplishments at the King Faisal Hospital
Dr. Saad worked at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The Protocol Office and the chief of the hospital would call him into service personally to perform assignments from the simplest operations to the most complex surgeries. Although the hospital primarily serves the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia, the royals from Bahrain, the UAE, and around the Persian Gulf came to be treated at the hospital as well, the Hospital also serves the very poor with the most complex pediatric surgical problems. Most of the nurses and the doctors at the hospital were highly trained in the UK or in the USA and had the opportunity to work with the best medical equipment available.
For Dr. Saad, it was not enough just to ensure that he performed his duties as the surgeon during his time at King Faisal Hospital. He also helped create and develop Surgical Residency Program there. He managed to establish a working connection and approval of the Royal College of Surgeons in England for students to receive their UK certification at home in Saudi Arabia. Dr. Saad is proud of this achievement as he called it a remarkable accomplishment. Because of him, many students now have the opportunity to stay at home in Saudi Arabia for surgical training instead of having to fly and train abroad.
The Protocol Office and the chief of the hospital respected Dr. Saad’s opinion as an experienced surgeon. His suggestions on whether to perform surgery at the hospital or to fly the patient abroad were always taken with the utmost respect. One of assistant chief of the hospital personally trusted Dr. Saad to perform surgery on his son at King Faisal Hospital instead of flying him abroad.
Dr. Saad’s Time in Saudi Arabia and His Family
Something that stood out greatly during the interview with Dr. Saad was the passion with which he spoke about his family, making it very clear to me that he is a family man. Dr. Saad has four children, who were still young during this time in Saudi Arabia. He knew very clearly that the move would have a significant impact on his family and he sincerely took that into account when accepting the job.
Originally, Dr. Saad was supposed to stay in Saudi Arabia for only a year. But he and his wife did not want to move his family around too much as they were growing up and receiving their early years of education. So, as a family, they extended their stay. They would have stayed longer too had it not been for the fact that his family would have to be sent to boarding school abroad to continue their education if Dr. Saad continued to live in Saudi Arabia.
For Dr. Saad, there were several perks of living in Riyadh. Of course, he was happy to use his surgeon skills to help prestigious patients and to earn the trust of the Royal Family. He also enjoyed giving lectures to the surgical club and spreading his knowledge to others. While at the King Faisal Hospital, Dr. Saad performed pediatric surgery on the youngest baby to have ever been admitted with an aneurysm. Not only did he personally save the baby, he also got a world-class scientific journal to publish the details of the case in order to educate others.
Dr. Saad also enjoyed meeting people from all over the world in Saudi Arabia. He mentioned visiting friends, with his family in tow, on his allocated time away from the hospital in Denmark, Sweden, Ghana , Egypt, England, Canada, Hawaii and many other exciting places. Now he has life-long connections with people from all over the world, all because of his job as the pediatric surgeon for the Royal Family. He is also happy for his kids to have made international friends and to have received a first-rate education.
Dr. Saad’s time at King Faisal Hospital eventually had to end so he could return back to life in the United States to be closer to his family and have his children to go to schools close to home. Being such a high demand surgeon is not an easy profession. His tenure with the royal family was an impressive four and a half years. As we were concluding our interview, Dr. Saad mentioned none of this could have been possible without the support of his wife. Having her support made his demanding job a lot easier. Dr. Saad is now retired and living in Red Bank, NJ.