Global Action on Health, Climate Change, and Digital Transformation Key to the Future


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Dr. Tomislav Mihaljevic, President and CEO of Cleveland Clinic, and His Excellency Waleed Al Mokarrab Al Muhairi, Deputy Group CEO of Mubadala Investment Company spoke of how the intersection of health care, climate change, and the cyber sphere will be key in the bilateral relationship as well as for global health trends during a U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council webinar held on 9 March 2021. A video of the webinar can be found here.

In a conversation moderated by Mr. Danny Sebright, President of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, Dr. Mihaljevic  reflected on his time in the U.A.E., saying that his tenure as head of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi showed him what the collaboration of visionary leaders can do to benefit a country and its people. He added that Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi had a transformational effect on the U.A.E., as it impacted not just the healthcare services of the region, but helped change the perception of the possibilities for bilateral cooperation in this vertical. Dr. Mihaljevic also stated that he is honored to be joining the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council as its co-Chairman, and that the Council is an important vehicle in the quest to broaden collaboration between the U.S. and U.A.E.

In his opening remarks, His Excellency Waleed Al Mokarrab Al Muhairi welcomed Dr. Mihaljevic as his fellow co-Chairman of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, and lauded Dr. Mihaljevic for his strong track record contributing to the advancement of bilateral relations. H.E. Waleed went on to say that he expects a strong economic recovery in 2021, but that this recovery will fluctuate due to the difference in pace of growth in various countries, as well as the complex geopolitical challenges of the region. H.E. Waleed added that the international community cannot afford to turn inwards and must increase global cooperation due to the nature of the headwinds and transformational opportunities facing the globe today. He singled out climate change and global vaccine distribution as ripe areas for collaboration.

When asked about the lasting legacy of the pandemic on business, Dr. Mihaljevic stated that despite many good reasons for optimism, it is too early to celebrate. The pandemic is far from over, and although the vaccination rollout is progressing well in the U.S. and the U.A.E., the challenge of producing and distributing vaccines for the global population will impede a total global recovery. Dr. Mihaljevic said that he expects an economic recovery for the U.S. and U.A.E. in mid-to-late 2021,  and the rest of the world will see better times in 2022. On his end, H.E. Waleed noted that businesses have been effective in managing the dual economic and health crises, via creating new employee and customer engagement protocols, remote working, and the re-engineering of supply chains. As businesses step into a post-COVID-19 future, the challenge becomes to find a new balance between what was customary before and the new normal will be based on the agility of businesses to reconfigure their strategy, structure, processes, and technology towards new ways of work that intersect with customer behavior. H.E. Waleed spoke about U.A.E. efforts to prepare for the next pandemic by investing in life sciences and food security.

When asked about the renewed emphasis on healthcare from the Biden Administration, Dr. Mihaljevic stated that healthcare is ​intertwined with other global challenges. Dr. Mihaljevic spoke of how climate change and health care are directly related, and how global warming will lead to an accelerated rate of pandemics if not addressed. Furthermore, Dr. Mihaljevic stated that digital transformation efforts are needed to better address the ability to combat future pandemics, remarking, “We need to use the tools of the 21st century to address healthcare challenges of our times.” Through Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, healthcare entities can better prepare for future pandemics. An example of this emphasis is through Cleveland Clinic’s new Center for Global and Emerging Pathogens, which will try to answer the ‘how’ of preparing for future pandemics and the need to disseminate cures to the global population. 

 H.E. Waleed spoke about the U.S. and U.A.E.’s common interests in addressing climate change, referencing the recent meeting between the two climate envoys: John Kerry and H.E. Sultan Al Jaber. He said he is pleased to see the U.S. ready to confront the climate change threat, and that the U.A.E. has created a climate plan which provides a comprehensive framework to address the causes and impacts of climate change. This will allow a transition into a climate resilient green economy that ultimately provides a better quality of life for the U.A.E.’s population. H.E. Waleed noted how the U.A.E. allocated over $163 billion to meet its Energy Strategy 2050 goal of increasing the contribution of clean energy sources in its total capacity mix to 50%. He noted that waste to energy, clean coal, and hydrogen will all be important over time to the global energy mix and energy transition.

When asked about the broader business priorities of the U.S. for 2021 and beyond, Dr. Mihaljevic said that there are two important elements for the Biden team. The first is investing in health care and providing financial relief to Americans who have suffered. He added that equality and equity are important for both individual prosperity as well as the health of a nation, and that the U.S. will be looking to invest in these two aspects to shore up its economic future. The second is investment in infrastructure in a broad sense. Additionally, Dr. Mihaljevic spoke of the need for health care diplomacy. He also mentioned that international patient services should begin resumption sooner rather than later.

Dr. Mihaljevic and H.E. Waleed both agreed that technology is a way to accelerate the provision of services across many verticals, and H.E. Waleed cited that as one reason for the recent reorganization of Mubadala Investment Company. Dr. Mihaljevic stated his belief that the healthcare business will, globally, become more consolidated in the years to come, as AI and machine learning will drive it towards an evolution and eventual transformation. However, according to Dr. Mihaljevic, this will also pose a cybersecurity threat. For with more technological advancement and dependency, the ability of nefarious actors to use digital tools for malicious ends will grow

Mr. Sebright concluded the webinar by noting how proud the Business Council is to have Dr. Mihaljevic and H.E. Waleed as its Co-Chairmen, and that their insight will be valuable to our members as they begin navigating the path to the new normal in 2021.

For more information about the Business Council’s slate of upcoming events, please contact the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council’s head of communications, Ms. Mary Zuccarello at or visit our website at