More than 20 years later, Dr. Ahmad Moussa Alokl still remembers the infant’s face: her curly brown hair, hazel eyes and fair skin. She looked about eight months old and was unable to breathe.
Moussa was an intern at Ain Shams University Specialized Hospital in Cairo, Egypt. He was working in the emergency room the night the girl came in with severe pneumonia.
“We tried everything to restart her heart. But it didn’t work. It froze my attention on how children need care, children need their parents to know how to care for them.
“It was a turning point in my life. I couldn’t forget this girl.”
From his internship, Moussa went on to build a career in Egypt that has included positions at Save the Children, the Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt (also called 57357 Hospital), and now the Center for Development Services. But the turning points kept coming.
One night while working an overnight shift in a hospital blood bank, Moussa met a father whose son desperately needed a specific type of blood. Typically, another department ran the necessary tests. But that department was closed. “The father kept begging me: ‘My child is dying.’
“I decided I’m not letting him down.” Moussa ran tests on more than 20 blood units over the next three hours to find a match.
“The appreciation that I saw in the eyes of this father I also cannot forget,” he says. “This was another turning point, proof that I was on the right path and that helping people was the right thing to do.”
In 2011, Moussa considered working in Saudi Arabia. But four days before his flight, he felt pulled back. “I had this feeling that I would not be happy,” he says. “I didn’t want to spend my life without a cause.”
He joined Save the Children instead. Moussa’s work took him to rural areas where he focused on educational health initiatives there.
Following Save the Children, Moussa joined the 57357 Hospital, which works with pediatric cancer patients. He considers the decision to be the third turning point in his career. “Helping children with cancer was something that I really admired,” he says.
Moussa is now with the Center for Development Services, a private consulting firm. He oversees projects in areas such as family planning, sexual and reproductive health, occupational health and health systems. It’s work that he’s hoping to complement with his Master of Science in Global Child Health studies from the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
As part of his Global Scholars Project, Moussa is analyzing mortality rates in Egyptian children younger than 5 years old. His goal is to make sustainable and equitable reductions in the mortality rate.
“Most of the child survival programs and interventions to lower mortality still speak to the conventional causes of death, pneumonia and diarrhea,” he says. “I thought of looking into the emergent causes of under-5 mortality in Egypt, and the socioeconomic determinants of these causes. I hope the results will help us design new interventions.”
Turning point by turning point, Moussa’s journey kept him working to help young children like the baby girl in the emergency room during his internship.