Medical Seminar Dublin: Training Programme for Syrian Medics

by Charlotte Bishop

The ‘more the merrier’ is a saying that often rings true. And yet there was something powerful in the small group that gathered in Clonskeagh on the 2nd of April. The aim of the gathering? To encourage Irish and British doctors  to go to Lebanon and Turkey- for one week or two- to train young Syrian doctors.


We, as individuals, are floundering when it comes to knowing how best to channel our empathy in reaction to the Syrian situation. We listened to Dr Nagi and Dr Basel as they spoke about an inspiring upskilling project- one which was established after a similar meeting of minds session in 2015. The 2015 discussion dwelt on the fact that, among those being forced to flee Syria, are many trained and skilled doctors. The medical personnel, who choose to stay, need more training (many of them are newly trained doctors) as well as medical aid. Who is supporting them? Could a team of British and Irish doctors, with particular expertise, spend a short while on the borders of Syria, upskilling ­­­­Syrian doctors?


And so it came about.


At the gathering, we heard how doctors from Syria were prepared to take the incredibly dangerous journey, across the border into Turkey to attend the upskilling weekend held 2015. We heard how, after a just one intense day of learning, they were already desperate to get back to Syria to use their skills. Not one doctor decided to use the opportunity to continue the journey into Europe. We heard of how the Irish-British team were challenged - they spent a night researching and talking to other doctors via internet, before responding to the Syrian doctors’ last minute request for a lecture on Phantom Leg Syndrome. We were shown a photo of the team- of the Irish, British and Syrian doctors together. One smiling doctor was pointed out- a life lost among the bombs that doctors work between.


We heard too from Dr Vincent who volunteers tirelessly in Calais and Lesvos, offering both physical and emotional support to refugees.  While the actions of Dr Najee, Dr Basal and Dr Vincent are different in nature, they are all grounded in the same place- their actions come from a space of deep empathy. "It doesn't matter if I’m a doctor. It doesn't matter if he is a patient. We are all human beings" was Dr Fintan’s closing remark.


A project, then, that is grounded in empathy and humanity and one that is not purely ‘medical’ but draws on the expertise and worldviews of engineers, technicians, teachers, translators etc. An emergency, humanitarian situation demands a reaction that is prepared but also one that is flexible, collaborative and creative in nature. This holistic response will allow the upskilling project to grow in strength and effectiveness.


Much came from the knowledge sharing; issues with Arabic medical texts translation? A Libyan man, who had been involved in the Libyan uprising, offered support. How best to condense many hours of recorded lectures so it could stream well? An IT engineer was keen to help.


The project is exciting. It not only facilitates Ireland’s technical and medical skills but also gives direction to the natural empathy of the Irish people who are driven to work in solidarity with those in crisis.


How can we keep it and similar projects running? Human Appeal ( lets you know how you might volunteer on or fundraise for the next upskilling project.