The Business Year

Dr. Tomislav Mihaljevic

UAE, ABU DHABI - Health & Education

Head in the Game

CEO, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi


Dr. Tomislav Mihaljevic serves as the CEO of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. Dr. Mihaljevic received his medical degree from the University of Zagreb and started his education in cardiac surgery at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. In 1995, he joined the Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School, where he completed residency in general and cardiac surgery and served as Chief Resident in the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery at Children’s Hospital in Boston. Dr. Mihaljevic is certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery. He specializes in minimally invasive and robotically assisted cardiac surgeries, valve repair and replacement, image-guided surgery, heart failure, and cardiac transplantation. Dr. Mihaljevic has served on editorial boards for a number of medical journals and has authored numerous articles in scientific journals and textbooks.

"We have had substantial success in attracting exceptional talent to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi."

Since opening, how have appointments and procedures been spread across the respective departments and services?

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is a multispecialty hospital serving primarily adult patients. We offer services in more than 30 different specializations across 12 institutes, including five centers of excellence in heart and vascular, neurological, eye, digestive disease, and respiratory and critical care. We also have institutes for medical subspecialties and for surgical subspecialties, both of which offer a complete suite of services in traditional internal medicine, such as head and neck surgery and urology. We do not treat children with the exceptions of the Eye Institute, because there is such a need locally for pediatric ophthalmology, and the 24/7 Emergency Medicine Institute.

How does the hospital balance resources between medical tourism and domestic healthcare, undertaken as part of the national infrastructure?

First and foremost, it is important to emphasize that Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is here to serve the local community—Emirati and expat patients who reside in Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE. This is our primary goal, to provide high-quality treatment that keeps Emirati patients and other residents in Abu Dhabi, thereby reducing the need to travel abroad for care. This obviously keeps them closer to their families and loved ones as well. This is the most important part of our mission. The second part of our mission is to ensure Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi makes a lasting change by contributing to the sustainable growth of Abu Dhabi’s healthcare sector. An integral part of this effort is the development of Emirati leaders in healthcare and we are meeting this objective by supporting knowledge and skills transfer, particularly through research and innovation.

The general strategy for the UAE healthcare sectors has been to attract highly qualified doctors and scientists, who will then train local medical staff, in order to develop the sector as a whole. How has Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi achieved this so far?

We have had substantial success in attracting exceptional talent to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. We believe this was the largest recruitment effort ever undertaken in healthcare. Approximately 80% of our institute chiefs and one-third of our total physician staff have Cleveland Clinic experience. That experience is important because they understand, firsthand, the model of care we are seeking to achieve in Abu Dhabi. It is important to have people onboard who understand what the end result should look like. All our physicians have on average 15 to 20 years’ experience. Three-quarters of them have academic degrees and one-third are full professors. Most importantly, they share our vision and are motivated by the same guiding philosophy; to put patients first, uniting every caregiver in our organization to make a positive impact on the patient experience. We have organized our structure around the patients’ needs and have brought in a workforce that fully supports that mission.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is a Mubadala company that instills the American healthcare system across to Abu Dhabi. How does this provide stability and financial resources?

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is primarily here to complement the existing offerings in the Abu Dhabi market by bringing the first true replication of the US healthcare model outside of North America when it comes to highly specialized, complex care. In so doing, we are filling a need for acute and critical care within the healthcare sector. We are fortunate to have Mubadala as our partner in this endeavor. Our collaboration has been exceptionally strong and continues to be so. Without this joint effort, and the collaboration with regulators and the broader healthcare community, it would not have been possible to build this completely new, 4.4 million sqft campus. Furthermore, as part of the Mubadala network, we are able to collaborate with experts across different specialties and work together for the wider development of the healthcare sector. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is a large organization that employs more than 3,000 people. What makes us unique is how our singular focus on patients’ needs drives our delivery model. We treat our patients using a group practice model of care. Pioneered by Cleveland Clinic, this model of care sees different specialized physicians working together to comprehensively diagnose and treat a patient’s condition.

What are some of the details of your collaboration on education?

Cleveland Clinic has the third largest residency program in the US, with over 1,700 residents in its system. Furthermore, Cleveland Clinic is probably one of the most prolific hospital systems when it comes to the number of papers published as well as other annual academic contributions. We are using that foundation to offer continuing medical education to our caregivers—the term we use for everyone we employ—here in Abu Dhabi. In particular, we are leveraging Cleveland Clinic’s academic expertise for the education of our Emirati colleagues. We have our first Emirati resident at Cleveland Clinic and have several more Emirati medical students who are going to go through the same process. This will allow our Emirati colleagues to be trained at Cleveland Clinic and then return to the UAE with a job in hand, providing us with a full educational cycle. In addition, we have a lot of educational content that is easily accessible online as well as digitally integrated tools that enable caregivers to participate in case conferences back in the US.

What expansion and further development plans does Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi have here in Abu Dhabi?

A rising population and changing demographics are features of every society and Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s long-term strategy in the UAE could potentially provide for additional services as needs arise in the future. Currently, we are focused on delivering services offered at our 12 institutes and fulfilling our mission of helping reduce the need for patients to travel abroad for complex, critical care. In addition, we are looking forward to accepting more and more patients. In fact, we recently signed three new agreements with insurance providers; ADNIC’s Platinum Health Insurance, AXA’s Star Plus network, and select NAS Administration Services (NAS) plans. This is in addition to accepting patients with Thiqa and select Daman Enhanced insurance plans as well as those who wish to self-pay. We also plan to add two more important features to our medical campus, namely training and education and research and innovation. These are our immediate plans. However, our current focus is really to ramp up to our full capacity and better serve patients in the UAE with our complete suite of services, many of which were not previously available here. Then, we will see what the future brings. I believe we have a bright future ahead of us.



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