The brilliant mind behind Guyana’s first ‘virtual doctor’ initiative

By Ravena Gildharie

Guyana Chronicle

January 21, 2018

ESSEQUIBO-born Arifa Mohamed earned herself a name as one of Guyana’s brightest young minds in 2009 when she emerged one of the country’s top six CSEC performers. An Anna Regina Multilateral School student then, she placed first for all of Essequibo and Junior Secondary Schools.

The performance won her much recognition and awards, both nationally and regionally.
To her, the achievement was “a signal” that she could achieve whatever she envisioned once she applied “enough discipline and dedication.” After secondary school, she completed two years of Bio-Chemistry at the University of Guyana, in pursuance of becoming a medical doctor. She then proceeded to study Business Law and psychology through the University of Cambridge (via School of the Nations Guyana) and continued on to the University of Guyana to study Sociology, and later Law with a focus on Business Law.

Arifa Mohamed being interviewed by Timesnow India at GES 2017. She was also interviewed by Entrepreneur India, Hindustan Times, The New India Express and Mahaa News.
Arifa Mohamed being interviewed by Timesnow India at GES 2017. She was also interviewed by Entrepreneur India, Hindustan Times, The New India Express and Mahaa News.

Eight years later, at age 25 and a University of Guyana Law student, Mohamed is a powerhouse of vibrancy and success; chartering a course as a digital entrepreneur; and driven by a new found love for law and entrepreneurship, which she entwined with her childhood passion for the medical field. Fueled with such dynamism, she founded “iMed Guyana”- an app geared to aid the healthcare system in Guyana, by confronting the challenges of hard-to-access geographic locations, limited human resources, lack of funding and outdated technology. While the app is under construction, Arifa aggressively engages relevant health bodies in Guyana and is also working with doctors to build a network of ‘on-demand’ healthcare practitioners. The goal she chases is to make iMed “an Uber for medicine.”

Arifa Mohamed with her parents at ARMS Graduation 2009
Arifa Mohamed with her parents at ARMS Graduation 2009

“Imagine visiting the doctor without ever leaving your house,” Mohamed outlined to the Pepperpot Magazine. “Imagine your medical prescription being delivered through your phone. Imagine having an on-demand cardiologist, psychiatrist, primary care physician, or any specialist. This is the power of iMed – Guyana’s first ‘virtual doctor’ initiative, an app that enables the end-consumer to access licensed healthcare practitioners in an affordable way,” she continued.

Explaining her motivation, Mohamed observed her friends and family members from Essequibo requiring specialised healthcare but were restricted by geography.

“More than that, I saw that even when you are able to make it to the clinic or hospital, there is often a lengthy wait or burdensome cost,” Mohamed noted.

AGAINST THE ODDS
The second phase of her project aims to use the app as a health tracker, pills reminder, and offline knowledge bank. The third phase seeks to develop mobile add-on medical devices that analyse blood, track health, and do ultrasounds. The tech-savvy entrepreneur is hoping to complete the second and third phases of operations throughout the Caribbean.

Not oblivious to the gamut task at hand, Mohamed is determined to make iMed a triumph. She recalled that at the beginning, naysayers cautioned her: “This is Guyana. It will never work.” However, as the idea grew, others started joining, and there is now a full-fledged team developing the concept. Looking ahead, Mohamed is optimistic about support from both private and public sector organisations as iMed moves closer to launch.

Arifa Mohamed at SSEE Graduation 2002 as Valedictorian from Primary School
Arifa Mohamed at SSEE Graduation 2002 as Valedictorian from Primary School

She disclosed that the revenue model is similar to other apps in the ‘sharing economy’ where the platform will receive a small percentage to facilitate transactions between health care practitioners and patients. Totally self-funded thus far, the businesswoman is seeking to also raise capital for an awareness and sensitisation campaign.

It is this staunch discipline and determination that Mohamed attributes her success, noting that while she wears many hats, her “I-can-do-it-all” approach/attitude enables her to successfully multitask and reap success in numerous facets at the same time.

Currently, a Business Development Officer at SocialRank Media, a digital marketing agency in Guyana, Arifa is tasked with building marketing strategies across all relevant media to support client’s business objectives, market research, branding, new product development, and business development.

She has successfully raised visibility and increased customer engagement for hundreds of brands, including Bruster’s Ice Cream, Franklin Covey, Sheer Strength, Auberge Resorts, Parliament of Guyana, Ansa Mcal, Massy, Metro Guyana, and Bounty Farm Ltd. Her areas of expertise are branding, Google & Facebook ads analytics, reputation management, consumer research & insights, sales funnels & lead generation, and project management. She is also currently a part-time trainer at The Masterclass Institute (a training institution focused on the development of nano, micro and small businesses in Guyana).

MAKING AN IMPACT GLOBALLY
Last November, Mohamed joined over 1,700 well-seasoned and emerging entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders from 140 countries across the world, who participated in the eighth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) 2017. It took place in Hyderabad, India and Mohamed’s participation was sponsored by the United States government. The summit was centered on the theme ‘Woman First, Prosperity for All’ with major focuses on emerging industries, including Energy and Infrastructure, Healthcare and Life Sciences, Financial Technology and Digital Economy, and Media and Entertainment.

For Mohamed, it was an intense and life-changing experience that exposed her to a greater level of understanding of the current trends and innovative and disruptive industries that are flourishing and making international waves throughout the entrepreneurial community.

“It was an invaluable event where I was connected to not just entrepreneurs but to mentors from global tech companies, high-level executives and even investors…I’ve also connected with a team in Hyderabad who will be assisting me with iMed GY,” Mohamed stated. She was offered mentorship, collaborations, volunteer hours and guidance for her project and is currently in talks with an attendee from Europe who is willing to offer her software as an add-on application for iMed.

Stemming from that exposure, Mohamed is also part of a core team executing the Digital Wealth Creation Summit 2018 at the Marriott Hotel, Guyana. Additionally, she is a working with a group of young start-up entrepreneurs that she met in India to help launch and grow their start-ups.

Her advice for others: “You can do it but you can’t/shouldn’t do it alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Starting something is hard, especially something that is a bit out of the norm. There are so many moving pieces and factors to take into account that it can become really overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Also, it’s easy to get sucked into the daily whirlwind of tasks, errands and responsibilities; but be sure to carve out time for self-care — sleeping, eating well and relaxing are just as important as completing that ‘next task.’”



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