A paediatrician championing innovation in healthcare

Sakaria Ali

 Photo by Areej Yasin (MPP 2017)

Sakaria Ali (MPP 2017) is a Consultant Paediatrician at University College London Hospital where he has specialist expertise in epilepsy and complex safeguarding. Having completed his specialist training in 2020, he became the first certified Somali paediatrician in the UK. Sakaria currently works as a full-time clinical practitioner – but his route has been far from conventional. Passionate about bringing an interdisciplinary approach to healthcare, his professional and academic experience spans from medicine to humanitarian work, and technology to public policy.

Sakaria’s interest in public policy was formed while working on a child protection project in Kenya during his international health degree in 2007. The project, which he carried out with UNICEF and the Population Council, focused specifically on female genital mutilation (FGM) and developing policies to combat this practice.  After completing his medical degree in 2010, he split his time between clinical practice in the UK and humanitarian work in the Middle East and Africa. “I began to realise the benefits that a deeper understanding of public policy could bring,” he says. “I came to the Blavatnik School to study policymaking processes and the factors – political, philosophical and economic – that underpin policy decisions.”

The Master of Public Policy (MPP) also enabled Sakaria to explore his interest in technology and healthcare.

“Healthcare is increasingly digitised, so I'm mindful of access to public services for digitally excluded patients and the limited governance of new healthcare technologies. There is a lot of policy work to be done in both areas.”

Sakaria was awarded a Start-Up Nation Central Scholarship (see information about MPP fees and funding), through which he was able to travel to the US to take part in a seminar at Harvard on integrated healthcare and technology.

“There were plenty of opportunities to pursue my policy interests on the MPP: I co-organised a one-day Technology and Public Policy conference at the School, and my summer project was a comparative analysis of emerging healthcare technologies in the US and the UK.”

While the MPP opened up many other career avenues, Sakaria ultimately decided to return to medical practice. “My driving force has always been helping people, and working directly with patients is one of the aspects of my work I enjoy the most. I am constantly inspired by the resilience of the children I care for.”

The demands of the COVID-19 pandemic led Sakaria to focus primarily on clinical practice, but he looks forward to diversifying his work again in the near future – particularly as the topic of technology and healthcare has been brought to the fore during the pandemic, with widespread adoption of telemedicine.

“I consider myself a public servant first and foremost, but I am open-minded as to what form that might take. The pandemic has shown the interconnectedness of all of our lives ­– from the local to the global level. I hope to continue working across disciplines to push for innovation in the healthcare system and improve the health and wellbeing of the communities that I serve.”

Sakaria was a Start-Up Nation Scholar.

August 2021