Who am I?
Now there’s a question!
I’m Dr. Haidar Al-hakim, and as you can see from the header at the top of this site, I’m an author, international speaker, ophthalmic surgeon and burnout/mindset coach — helping doctors and success-driven entrepreneurs stay focused, stable, fulfilled, and in touch with their purpose. Whatever that purpose may be.
In short: Helping people just like you to avoid professional burnout and personal despair.
Because when building something bigger becomes your primary function in life, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself — and I know this all too well.
See, I’d pretty much always been an overweight child — something I’d constantly wanted to remedy — but it was while studying for my medical degree that the wheels really came off my life.
I was stressed, mostly due to my own drive to succeed. That’s one thing I see all the time amongst us medical pros — we’re driven. Often excessively so. It’s what allows us to get to where we are, and put up with what we do.
A blessing, and a curse.
And just like most of us, I allowed this drive to control my thoughts, my actions and my time, without keeping an eye on what it was doing to me not just physically, but to my life in general.
I was outwardly happy. An achiever, a good student. But inside I was miserable, unfulfilled and drained of energy. I existed in a cycle of burnout and self-loathing, and it was going to catch up with me sooner or later…
In 1999, I received an Honours MBBS degree and started training in ophthalmic surgery across Portsmouth, Luton and the Royal Free and Great Ormond Street hospitals. Between 2006 and 2010, I worked within the NHS as an eye surgeon — an excellent job, which I loved.
But something felt missing, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to find out what it was…
If you hadn’t already guessed based on my name, my extended family hails from Iraq. There’s a huge history there — one filled with adversity, false imprisonment, torture, and both academic and personal struggle against the ruthless regime of Saddam Hussein. I’d be happy to tell you about it some time. Just ask.
It was in 2005 that I made my first real trip back to Iraq, so I could help surgeons over there establish their own clinics in Najaf and Karbala.
In 2006, I set up the Al-Hasan Foundation, a UK-based registered charity that sought to provide sight-saving eye care for people in these needy areas.
Together, we provided essential care to a population beset by the horrors of war. Victims of roadside bombings, firefights and all manner of brutality regularly needed our help.
Since then, the charity has become the All Eyes Foundation, which now focuses on bringing sight to people in deprived Kenya and Tanzania.
All the good that I had brought to these people played on my mind while I was working under the NHS… and in 2010 I moved back to Iraq to work full time at the charity’s Najaf eye clinic.
I had a family of my own by this point, and in 2012 we decided to head back to the UK and raise our children while the clinic — now functioning very well on its own — could continue without me.
You would think that such an achievement would naturally make me happy. That it would add to my sense of purpose, of fulfillment in life.
But anyone with an understanding of human behaviour could look at my physical obesity and know that simply wasn’t the case.
I still wasn’t happy.
Whatever it was inside of me that kept me stressed, kept me overweight and kept me down had not been addressed.
And it wasn’t long before it exploded.
I felt like my entire existence was falling apart… but most of all, I felt I was the one to blame. I’d been too engrossed in my work; I’d taken my eye off the ball. As a husband, father and provider, I had utterly failed in my duty to protect my family from hardship.
I should have seen this coming – should have controlled it and should, should, should…
And before I knew it, I found myself sitting alone one evening, considering the possibility of ending my own life.
For the sake of my family, I went to see a local life coach… and after just four sessions, my way of thinking had changed dramatically. The clarity I had gained, and the improvement it had made in my life, in such a short time was astounding.
Unfortunately, it only took me so far. I came to see that the general strategies I was instructed to use were superb up to a point — but reaching what I could consider a personal finish line seemed impossible.
I would have to figure out the rest on my own.
So from there, I went into training.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), hypnosis and holistic nutrition were all just part what I studied, but it was through understanding the world of medicine, the unique demands and pressures it places on those who work within it, and applying my own principles and experience that I managed to push through that final stretch and create a more open and joyful me.
Then, suddenly, my weight began to drop.
And a world of possibilities continued to open up to me.
Today I provide individual and group coaching to medical personnel and fledgling and experienced entrepreneurs, helping them avoid and escape the kind of devastating burnout and personal collapse that I once suffered.
A collapse that, sadly, many of us never make it back from without help.
I also regularly give talks about my struggles with weight, mental health and inner demons to adults, children and school-age youth, and have spoken and presented on international stages about time management, ophthalmology, burnout and self care.
I also run a regular meet-up group for professionals and continue to work in the NHS in North London.
So that’s me!
From a refugee in a below average London comprehensive school, to graduate of a prestigious medical institution…
From an NHS doctor to charity operator helping the wounded and needy in an active war zone…
From a broken-down, overweight and suicidal wreckage of a man…
To a public speaker, educator, respected surgeon, entrepreneur and joyful, resilient coach…
These are my stories, my experience. And I use these, alongside constant exposure to some of the greatest minds in medicine, fitness, wealth and health, to guide you down the path to the more fulfilling life you want.
Genuine experience, genuinely applied. That’s how you open your Third Eye.
If I can do it, believe me… you can too. Just hit the button below to arrange a quick chat about your current situation, and let’s see if we can fix it once and for all.