A childhood friend and I first had the idea 30 years ago in the north of France, when we vowed that once we were in a position to do so, we would do our utmost to support Africa. For many years, we didn’t have any real structures in place and our activities were carried out in isolation. In 2012, due to an unforeseen event that happened in an African country, we decided that we had to act quickly and travelled there with a team of surgeons to work on the ground. Since then, we have carried out several campaigns in Senegal, Niger, Morocco and Congo.
#1- Zouheir Bichra, what is the best moment you can remember in your career?
When I am on the field, every day is a good day. I have one particularly vivid memory from an operation we carried out in Senegal. A doctor came to me and explained that there was a young girl in the hospital who did not meet the criteria to be eligible for help under that particular campaign. She had a huge 20cm-wide tumour. She begged us to make an exception and operate on her, explaining that she had been banished from her village because of the tumour.
We had to be flexible – it was unthinkable to leave her like that. We moved heaven and earth to get in touch with Senegal’s only neurosurgeon, who agreed to help us and, a fortnight later, operated on the young girl. Now, I am deeply moved whenever I see her smiling on Skype – she has been able to get on with her life and has even got married. It was an act that cost us little, but saved a life. All this to say that, for me, the best moments are the human dimension that comes with working on the front line.
#2- If you had to give just one piece of advice to a junior starting his/her career, what would it be?
Be curious, remember that anything is possible, remain free in your choices and stick to your core values.
I think that it’s important to have a career mentor – people who can guide and inspire you.
Finally, remember that there is no limit to what you can achieve and the importance of remaining confident in your own abilities.
#3- Do you have a Motto/Lucky charm?
There’s no such thing as failure in life. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward.”
We have a certain fear of failure that ultimately stops us from trying. It is by learning from our attempts and moving on that we become stronger and smarter.
#4- What do you enjoy the most in your day to day job?
The human dimension, and the fact that you must always be receptive to others. When you’re working, you have to be at the top of your game. It’s a bit like having a part on stage that you must play to perfection and making people smile brings a lot of satisfaction.
#5- If you had to do it again would you choose the same career path?
I would still do pharmacy, I have no regrets – quite the opposite! The only thing I would change is my approach to risk-taking. I should have taken the plunge before I did and I regret not having become an entrepreneur earlier on.
#6- Where is your favourite place on earth and why?
Paris… I love Paris, it’s a city where you can find everything. For those who love their food, it’s a truly wonderful place. And then, of course, there’s Marrakesh, which I love for its mystical qualities.
#7- How could you qualify your relationship with Ampersand World?
I experienced Ampersand World’s professionalism first-hand when we were recruiting for a key post for our organization. They have been very reactive and identified our need very swiftly. I share their values and admire their work, and I know that they are ready to give people a second chance.