Latifa Al-Ajaji

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Time: 13 April, 2020

Speech pathologist/audiologist

I was born in Al-Ahsa. The sixth child in a family of six girls and four boys.

After I finished school, I knew I wanted a career that involved helping people one-to-one but also provided an important service not available in Saudi Arabia.

I decided to start a degree in speech pathology and audiology. Although it was rare for a girl from Al-Ahsa to venture abroad, I enrolled in a US university as part of a Saudi scholarship program.

A speech pathologist helps patients who have problems with bodily functions such as swallowing, speech and language, which may result from nervous system disorders, cleft lip or palate, strokes, head injuries, etc. Our patients ranged from premature infants to the elderly.

Adventures in my red Mustang notwithstanding, I achieved my bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s degree in speech pathology and audiology.

To the best of my knowledge, I was the first GCC national to earn a graduate degree in this field.

I moved back to Saudi Arabia and joined King Faisal University as a lecturer. I established the first speech pathology clinic in King Fahd Hospital in Alkhobar and later transferred to the Saudi Aramco Medical Services hospital in Dhahran.

At that time, the hospital had only one speech pathologist, a US citizen who spoke very little Arabic and I was delighted to have the opportunity to make a valuable contribution. The speech pathology unit grew during my tenure and had six professionals when I retired after 25 years of service.

My job was not easy. I faced all the challenges that any working mother can identify with. I treated many patients and never grew tired of seeing their joy when they recognized improvements in their conditions.

Through all the joys and challenges in life, the Prophet Muhammad was my role model. I do my best to follow his teachings and come as close as I can to the standards that he set for all.

Retirement gave me the time to pursue my twin passions of photography and Arabian heritage. Fortunately, my husband is also a keen photographer. We travel across Saudi Arabia, from the smallest of villages to the highest of mountains, capturing images of our beautiful heritage and breathtaking landscape (@laam.photography)

Looking back over the past years, I have learned to appreciate all the blessings that Allah has bestowed upon my family and me. Looking forward, I feel I have only just begun.

This article was first published in Arab News

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