“I am blessed with a dual culture.” Just out of the egg, less than two months old, Fatma Saraç-Pektas, principal analyst of molecular microbiology and serology, moved to the Netherlands from Turkey. “I feel like a Dutch Turk. From both cultures I have adopted norms and values. For example, the Dutch Fatma will never hide her opinion. The Turkish Fatma doesn't go to the pub in the evening. And I wear a headscarf. When I was a student - I studied biochemistry in Alkmaar - I just joined in the fun, but in my own way. Out and about during the day, with a coke. And I brought everyone who had gotten sick of the beers home safely.”
“I am enormously proud of what my team achieved in the covid period.” Saraç's team is responsible for all PCR testing in the hospital. “For example, in the diagnosis of HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C. But of course also in covid.” At the time of corona, the 26-member team led by Saraç and her colleague was working overtime to process the increasing number of corona tests from Amsterdam UMC and the region. Since March 2020, her Molecular Techniques Department has been the department that confirms whether someone has corona or not. As soon as a test, also known as a swab, arrives, the result is known within four hours. “At the GGD this sometimes took days.” The pressure on the department was high during the covid period, but thanks to the establishment of a shift schedule, the employees could still cope to some extent. “Fortunately, the atmosphere was good,” Saraç says. “We had just been reorganized and such a crisis does help to become a close team more quickly.” What kind of manager is she? “Definitely a people manager. People want to be seen and heard, that's the foundation. One way I do that is by giving employees my time. By having a chat with them every day, really listening to them, understanding their concerns and considering their opinions, proposals and ideas. A conversation can have to do with the content of the work, but it can also relate to the needs and concerns of the employee. Such a conversation, even if short, with genuine interest has a great impact, I am convinced.”
Amsterdam UMC aims to be diverse and inclusive. Where are the opportunities?
“Express your appreciation more often. Everyone wants to feel like a valued member of the organization. The fact that this is really important is something I experienced again during the corona crisis. We worked our asses off back then. All of a sudden we had to process numerous tests in a short period of time. And yes, sometimes something goes wrong. We're very sorry about that, of course, but what I found particularly unpleasant at the time was that we immediately received an angry message about it from higher up. And all those thousands of tests that had gone well, why did we never hear anything about them? At the time I really missed some appreciation for our efforts. A compliment, some positive feedback, does so much to people. That feeling of respect and appreciation is, in my opinion, also crucial for experiencing inclusion and feeling part of an organization.”
A good example of diversity and inclusion within Amsterdam UMC?
“On intranet I read an article about the Interpreter Phone and the campaign 'This is a child and not an interpreter'. From that article it became clear that care providers at Amsterdam UMC can use the interpreter telephone at any time. Zorgsupport has made money available for this. That really touched me, that my organization has arranged this so well. Because of my good command of the Dutch language, I also acted as an interpreter and translator from the age of eleven. Not only for my parents, but also neighbors and other Turkish families in my neighborhood. From official letters from institutions such as the tax authorities and the bank to school reports. With a dictionary beside me, I tried to understand the often difficult subject matter as well as I could. I also went along to appointments with the company doctor, the family doctor and even the hospital. That was pretty tough sometimes. You hear subjects that you shouldn't hear at that age. Fortunately, I did not experience it as traumatic myself. But there are plenty of children who do suffer from it later in life. Not surprisingly, you saddle children with adult problems. A child must be able to be a child. So it's fantastic that doctors in our hospital are alert to this and can always call in an interpreter. And if it doesn't work out with arranging a Turkish interpreter, you can pull me from my room. I really don't mind at all. As long as a child doesn't have to do it.
I would also like to mention the Amsterdam UMC streetcar that rode through the city when we had just merged. On that streetcar a wonderful mix of colleagues, from all ranks of the organization. Truly a great example of diversity and inclusion. There was also a colleague wearing a headscarf (Nora el Hantali, secretary in the Microbiology department ed.). That made me enormously proud. Because Muslim women are often portrayed in a very one-sided way. Favorite profession? Cleaner. At least, that's what it seems like when you look at the media images. With all the consequences that entails. More than once I've had people from outside the hospital think I work in cleaning or catering and ask me to clean up their mess. Nothing wrong with that job, of course. But we Muslim women also do other things. That came out beautifully on that streetcar.”
Outside of working hours?
“I read everything that's loose and stuck, I'm a real bookworm. Pretty soon after the corona crisis started I treated myself to an e-reader. The library and bookstores were closed, of course, but right then I really needed to escape into a book. Telephone away, curtains closed, reality on hold. I am also a real soccer mom. “Hey, look behind you!”, I call from the sidelines to my youngest son. I am the proud mother of three: two sons and a daughter. They are, of course, my greatest hobby. I also like to bake. By now my colleagues know all about it. Fatma, when are you going to make those delicious Turkish snacks for us? I do that with all my love. I'll put some köfte on the coffee table soon.”