Local doctor receives coveted UK award

James Kon

Dr Helena Hurairah, a paediatric ophthalmologist at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Seleha (RIPAS) Hospital, has been selected to receive the Commonwealth Points of Light, awarded by the Queen of England as Head of the Commonwealth, for her works in designing and creating child-friendly face masks to help hospitalised children amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The masks are sustainable and the design has been shared and reproduced in several countries to aid frontline staff in the battle against the coronavirus.

The award ceremony is expected to take place in a couple of weeks, and the award will be accompanied by a certificate signed by Queen Elizabeth II.

Dr Helena, in an interview, said, “When the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Brunei, the immediate priority of the Ministry of Health (MoH) was the health and safety of everyone.

“I know I’m not alone in sharing the sentiments of Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar that every single life matters. I would like to thank him for his compassionate and strong leadership during these trying times.”

Dr Helena with teachers and students from Jerudong International School. PHOTO: JERUDONG INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL

For the last three months, the doctor said, “I have been willingly swapping my ophthalmologist scrubs for personal protective equipment and standing side by side with my fellow frontliners.

“We have been overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity from the public, and I would like to thank them for their support.”

On being a recipient of the coveted award, she said, “The recognition holds such deep meaning for me due to my personal relationship with the UK. I am honoured to have been trained at the British National Health Service (NHS), and can only hope that I have done my mentors and colleagues proud by carrying the ingrained NHS core values and spreading them to Brunei.”

“To witness a community coming together in the midst of a global tragedy,” she said, “has been humbling as it has put our compassion and resilience to the test. One of the example is the Design and Technology Department at Jerudong International School. Together, we collaborated on producing reusable and effective face shields. The design has been shared and reproduced in many parts of the world.”

The doctor also extended her gratitude to “Claire and Richard Gillam as well as all the students and teachers at the Design and Technology Department for producing a child-friendly version of the face shield. It has been immensely comforting to children undergoing COVID-19 testing”.

Dr Helena added, “I am extremely optimistic that when the pandemic subsides, a more compassionate ‘new normal’ society will emerge because the crisis has highlighted how uniquely close-knit our community is.

“It has been especially encouraging to see the efforts by youth groups in reaching out to vulnerable members of the society during these challenging times. Thus, we continue to urge the public to remain vigilant and practise preventive measures as detailed by the MoH.”

The doctor has also shared videos on social media to help children and adults overcome anxiety and fear surrounding the coronavirus testing.

In August 2018, Dr Helena took part in an intensive blindness prevention skills exchange programme in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.