5 philanthropic doctors who go the extra mile for patients

20170111160000, Teo Jun Hong
Many altruistic doctors sacrifice time that could be spent with family or serve at the expense of their lives on the frontlines on the battlefield.
To many, a doctor is the embodiment of selflessness. They often skip meals, and often work 24 to 36 hour shifts.

Here are 5 examples of doctors who go beyond that call of duty to readily care for larger groups of people.

1. Professor (Colonel) Jon Clasper and Dr Vuthy Chhoeurn

Approximately 15,000 to 20,000 people around the world are killed by landmines and maim countless more. War-affected developing countries lack the infrastructure, trained rehabilitation professionals, financial and technical resources to treat blast victims.

Professor Jon Clasper who leads the Royal British Legion Centre for Blast Injury Studies at Imperial College, has provided his medical expertise in both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts by teaching doctors serving on the front-lines specialised techniques in salvaging limbs.

One of his doctors is Dr. Vuthy Chhoeurn from Cambodia, where it is one of the most contaminated regions in the world for landmine fields. Most of these mines are undetected in remote villages, rice fields and forests, making low income farmers and villagers the most vulnerable.

Now, Dr. Chhoeurn works at the National Children's Hospital in Phnom Penh, taking on all complicated trauma cases, and in addition, has founded a nationwide program to treat blast patients for free.

2. Dr Waheed Arian

At age of 15, Waheed Arian immigrated to the United Kingdom from Afghanistan. He vividly recalls around the 1990s, his parents telling him, "You are going to learn a bit of English, and then you will become a driver and then a shopkeeper - that's what we all do."

However, he had bigger dreams, eventually pursing a medical degree at the University of Cambridge. His journey to the UK was fraught with difficulties, especially the language barrier. Despite that, he achieved straight ‘A’s at the A levels, and was admitted to Cambridge.

Wanting to contribute back to humanity, he formed Teleheal, where British doctors volunteer to advise Kabul medics via Skype on traumas, accidents and other emergencies. Today, 50 doctors have volunteered their services with Teleheal.

He has since been invited to deliver talks at the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the World Health Organisation, aid charity Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and has even received an honour from the Afghan President last year.

3. The brave doctors of war-torn Syria

Due to the sheer scale of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria, the doctors who have chosen to remain and serve at the expense of their lives deserve a mention. In the nine medical facilities that remain in Aleppo, a city of 300,000, with seven ambulances, one neurologist and one cardiologist, they work days without sleep, without eating and all the while, watching the destruction of their communities.

Since 2011, more than 725 medical personnel have been killed by shelling, with twelve health centres supported by MSF completely destroyed. At one point in November 2016, all hospitals in eastern Aleppo were virtually out of action as a result of air strikes. Experts also say that these doctors are not fully licensed — they are medical students learning on the job.

“They have to make the very difficult decision every day if they’re going to go into work and risk being killed, or stay home with their families, or flee," said Susannah Sirkin, a policy expert with Physicians for Human Rights.

4. Dr. Lim Chin Siah

“I’d rather get bombed and die straightaway. Don’t make me lose a limb or something. I’ll be very upset,” said Dr. Lim Chin Siah. He holds a full-time job as a consultant in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Singapore General Hospital but takes half a year’s worth of unpaid leave to serve with MSF in places afflicted with natural disasters, epidemics, and armed conflicts.

With 12 years of experience, he has been a participant in three of such missions, and has had to make many sacrifices – during a recent three-month stint in Yemen he faced sudden influxes of patients, as many as 50 at a time. These were coupled with regular bombings nearby.

Although stressed, Dr. Lim emphasised that the stress levels experienced by the local medical staff were much worse. “If MSF isn’t there, these people will have a zero chance of help at all. But at least if we’re there, we can give them a chance. We can’t save everybody, but for those whom we can, they definitely benefit from our presence.”

5. Dr. Nason Tan

Malaysian doctor, Dr. Nason Tan first experienced the joy of voluntary work whilst accompanying his parents to volunteer at old folks’ homes. Today, he provides free medical care to the urban poor with Pertiwi Health Services’ mobile clinic, volunteers with MSF, treats and advises on sexual health issues for the LGBT community, and addresses health issues of refugees.

“For instance, I find that because of the stigma involved, many healthcare providers don’t know how to deal with the LGBT community, and this is important in dealing with sexual health issues. So there is a need there,” he explains.

He is also currently the vice-president of the MSF's Hong Kong Directors' Board, and the first Malaysian doctor to be elected to the board.

The 2015 Rohingya boat crisis became the catalyst for him, and three others in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Indonesia to create the Southeast Asia Refugees Support Network, a social media platform for individuals and civil groups to create initiatives to help refugees. MIMS

Read more:
The 10 habits of a great doctor
5 more of the most disastrous stories of human error in medicine
Healthcare professionals: 5 volunteering opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region

Sources:
http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_18-7-2016-15-27-8
http://www.malaysiandigest.com/features/633746-dr-waheed-arian-the-refugee-who-treats-afghans-via-skype.html
http://www.exceed-worldwide.org/trustees--patrons
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38132163
https://www.statnews.com/2016/05/26/doctors-war-torn-syria/
https://pride.kindness.sg/singapore-based-doctor-saving-lives/
http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/05/11/a-passion-for-volunteer-work-doctor-devotes-life-to-helping-the-unfortunate/