As far as we’re concerned, here at Profile[me] HQ, we think we have the best job in the world. We get to showcase amazing and talented women every single day who inspire us. Then sometimes one person comes along who really makes us turn our heads. Walaa Abuelmagd is one such person.
Walaa has been painstakingly and determinedly building up her career over the course of a phenomenal twenty years. She’s a licensed pharmacist – amongst other things – and began this path by obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy in Egypt before starting her Ph.D. at the University of Oslo, after successfully defending her Master’s at the same institution in 2013. To support herself during her studies, Walaa also worked as a pharmacist and as co-founder and Chief Information Officer at Generation Mobility, sometimes putting in nights and weekends at the hospital pharmacy when needed. It takes real strength of character and drive to cope with such a challenging and demanding situation, but Walaa has done so with ease.
Highly educated and fiercely intelligent, Walaa successfully defended her Ph.D. in Social Pharmacy early last year. Her research focused on comparing three non-Western patient groups and how they lived with their Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. In her findings, Walaa noted that cultural factors played strongly into how the groups managed their diabetes, for the most part coping with it suboptimally. Education and language barriers were among the predominant obstacles in managing their diagnoses effectively. The research was instrumental in developing a nuanced understanding of the needs of “difficult to reach” patient groups in Norway.
Walaa is someone with a strong sense of conviction. And as such, she has a lot to say and people want to listen. As an experienced keynote speaker, she’s been invited to share her knowledge at a plethora of topics, ranging from scientific research to diversity and social inclusion of immigrant populations in Norway. The latter being a topic she is especially passioned and vocal about. In addition, Walaa contributed to peer-reviewed reports for the Norwegian Institution of Public Health. Oh, and she was part of an international research team at a hospital in the UAE whilst doing her Ph.D., in affiliation with John Hopkins Medicine, which in the medical world is kind of a big deal.
Born in the Emirates, but with Egyptian roots, Walaa eventually settled in Norway, so she knows all about the ups and downs of life as an immigrant. Walaa has mastered the art of honouring her own culture and embracing another at the same time. She’s a steadfast believer that true integration is a mix of immigrants adapting to their surroundings, but the community accepting them for who they are as well. We couldn’t agree more.
Wanting to integrate as much as possible, Walaa threw herself into Norwegian culture, picking up a good grasp of the language within a matter of months. She opted to live outside of international Oslo so she could get a more authentic living experience.
In early 2020, Walaa garnered national attention, on both social media and news sites, with her unveiling of her bunad which she had paired with a matching hijab. For the uninitiated, a bunad is a traditional Norwegian dress that is rooted in rural culture worn on many festive occasions, from Norway’s Independence Day to birthdays, christenings, confirmations and more. In a lot of ways, Walaa’s bunad and hijab serve as a physical representation of her two cultures. They do not cancel each other out, one is not more important than the other, and neither subtracts from the other. Instead, they lend themselves to each other, creating a powerful symbol of unity and community.
Her hard work and commitment have certainly come to fruition. Since securing her Ph.D. last year, Walaa has begun her new role as a medical advisor and senior care specialist for MSD Norge – one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in Norway.
Walaa’s story is one of inspiration and success, but most of all, hard work and a willingness to live beyond borders. Her achievements have knocked it out of the park in their own right, but she’s done a lot of it while navigating a new environment. Moving to another country is a big step to take. Settling in that country and making it your own is even bigger. Walaa wanted to disprove the stereotype that she found herself confronted when she first landed in Norway. Not only has she done that successfully, but she also serves as an inspirational figure to those that will follow. Thank you Walaa for showing and paving the way forward.