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Diaspo #136 : Najib Ben Ayad, a Moroccan clinical perfusionist with big dreams

When he was ten years old, Najib Ben Ayad made a wish. He wanted to become one of the Netherlands’ few clinical perfusionists. His dream came true years later thanks to his hard work and determination.

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Moroccan-Dutch clinical perfusionist Najib Ben Ayad. / Facebook- Najib Ben Ayad

Najib Ben Ayad dreamed of working at a hospital when he was ten years old. Standing in front of that fountain in the vicinity of a cardiac hospital, while his newborn niece was undergoing a critical heart surgery, he threw a coin and made a wish.

«I stood there and I made a wish, hoping that one day I would become a doctor and work at that hospital to help my niece Manal», he recalled.

That day, Najib was determined, he knew what he wanted to be in the future and kept that objective in mind for the years to come. He mostly wanted to seize the opportunity his parents gave him by moving to the Netherlands.

Born in a small village between Tangier and Tetouan, Khmiss Anjra, Najib’s father, who worked in construction in said cities, was approached by a textile Dutch company that needed to recruit strong-built workers.

«During the interview, my father found himself waiting in line with 600 men while the company was initially looking for 40 workers only», Najib said. «While standing there, my father noticed that the men who were coming out of the room where the boss interviewed them were all disappointed. A friend of his happened to be there too and told him that inside a big Dutch would give him his hand to shake pull him towards him and if he fell he would be dismissed», he recalled.

Working hard to achieve dreams

Najib’s father, after years working in construction, had a plan to ace that interview. «When my father went in, he took the Dutch man’s hand and pulled it until he fell», Najib joked. The father was immediately chosen and the next day he was on a plane to start a new life.

One year later, Najib’s father brought the rest of the family to the Netherlands and settled down there. «My father at the time knew that we had to study hard or work on our talents if we had any in the first place», Najib said. To him, studying hard was a must.

«I realized that I did not have a talent like Cristiano Rolando but I had to study. My sister was already studying to work in a hospital and I liked that too», Najib, who works as a clinical perfusionist, said.

But his journey to become a doctor was not an easy one and was full of obstacles. One of them was discouragement. «When I was 12, I had to go to school with my father to choose a major and decide what I wanted to study next», said Najib, recalling that during that day «the teacher said something that stayed with me for years».

«When I said that I wanted to be a doctor, the teacher started laughing and said that I have to choose something else that is more basic and easy because I am Moroccan», he regretted.

Those words were harsh and discouraging to Najib who was determined to reach his goal despite all odds. When he finished school, the Moroccan went for laboratory studies and majored in blood circulation. He then went on to study blood diseases engineering.

One of the few clinical perfusionists

Najib started working in hospitals, doing research in laboratories about genetics and blood diseases. One day he visited the cardiac department in his hospital and there he stumbled upon clinical perfusionists who held big heart and lung machines.

At the time, he wondered what they were doing and asked about their uncommon specialty. «I was told that if I wanted to do the same, I would have to study blood circulation and that is exactly what I was doing, so I decided to opt for that branch and follow through even further», he said.

And so it was. Najib started an internship at one of the hospitals that offered the same specialty and by mere chance that hospital was the same where his niece underwent surgery years before. In the meantime, he pursued his studies in the same field at the University of Leiden.

«After completing my studies, I started working at the same hospital where I was interning. I worked there for five years and one of the last surgeries I did in that hospital was that of my niece Manal».

Najib Ben Ayad

Years later, Najib was approached by a company that operates cardiac surgeries and was asked to collaborate with them. «I was the youngest clinical perfusionist in the country. I partnered with them and now I work with them and we do 3,000 heart surgeries a year in three of the country’s biggest hospitals», he proudly said.

When he finished his specialty at the university, he was also asked to stay in as a teacher. Now, Najib is one of the few hundred clinical perfusionists in the Netherlands who operate heart and lung machines during cardiac surgeries.

«In cardiac surgery, we have three specialists, the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, the one who puts the patient asleep and then you have me. My specialty is related to blood circulation», he explained.

Najib is also one of the two Moroccans in the Netherlands with the same specialty and the only Dutch-Moroccan clinical perfusionist who works in three different cardiac surgery hospitals in the Netherlands and abroad.

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