Dr. El Akiki is the chief of hospitalist service at BID Needham. As a hospitalist, she oversees the care of inpatients. She has been on the board of advisors at BID Needham since 2019 and was recently named one of the 50 Most Influential Business People of Color in the Newton, Needham and MetroWest business community by the Newton Needham Regional Chamber.
Who inspired you to become a hospitalist?
As a hospitalist you need to learn how to act fast, build trust, support patients and their families during extremely stressful times. My father was a big believer in positive thinking: he was a teacher and a writer, played the lute and at a younger age was a part time assistant magician. He taught me and my four sisters how to work hard, be a good listener, think positive and always keep a good sense of humor. His positivity helped us during very difficult war times back home; he always said everything happens for a good reason.
Did your view of being a leader change during the first wave of the pandemic? What was the most challenging aspect of the response effort?
COVID definitely brought a different perspective to medicine. What kept me up at night was how to protect our clinicians, staff and patients while getting ready for the worst. We knew very little about the disease and had to act as fast as possible to implement changes. Not having a magic wand, we quickly realized that we needed to preserve the workforce as well as reach out to our colleagues to prepare for surges. Primary care doctors, specialists, and physician assistants all volunteered to help in case of surges and we trained our colleagues to become hospitalists and intensivists.
The community really rallied behind the hospital. Can you talk about what that support meant to you?
Knowing that the community supported us and had faith in us kept us going. They reminded us to take care of ourselves. They trusted us and knew that we would do the right things and keep working hard to find more answers. It meant a lot to us that people stayed home to keep us safe and break the curve.
You very eloquently spoke at a “kneel-in” to support Black Lives Matter. Why is the movement important to you?
I came to the US because in this country, everyone matters regardless of the color of their skin, gender, or religious beliefs. Today our black friends, patients, and colleagues are suffering injustice. We have lost loved ones due to racism and we cannot remain silent. We organized a kneel-in event with colleagues at academic institutions in Boston and across the country to show support and solidarity to those affected by racism. We are so lucky to work in a very inclusive and supportive institution, but we all know that there is a lot more work to be done. The new BID Needham Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee is looking at ways to improve access to health care for these patients and hopefully improve outcomes.