Two Arab universities will soon become the first to teach conflict medicine, with a curriculum devised by the pioneering surgeon Ghassan Abu-Sittah and based on his experience of wars in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon.
“This is the first time that war surgery has been taught at the university level as part of basic medical education,” said Abu-Sittah, who is currently a lecturer at the Centre for Blast Injury Studies at Imperial College London, in a phone interview.
Conflict medicine is a specialty until now practiced by the military or by humanitarian organizations. Abu-Sittah, a British-Palestinian plastic and reconstructive surgeon, co-authored a manifesto issued by Doctors Without Borders in 2016 which defined conflict medicine as “a systematic approach to address the clinical, social and public health consequences of contemporary warfare.”
The new curriculum, to be used by the University of Baghdad and the Islamic University of Gaza, reflects developments in casualties caused by the use of advanced weapons in wars in the Arab region.
“Conflicts create a new environment for the residents of these areas. They define new patterns of their ways of life, as well as their health systems, even the sorts of diseases and infections that are transmitted,” Abu-Sittah said. (See a related article, “Studying Medicine in Time of War.”)
“We usually treat casualties who live in conflict areas in the Arab region based on information and research from Western institutions, which are not aligned with our health systems and capabilities.”
Obstacles for Arab Doctors
Christos Giannou, a former chief surgeon for the International Committee of the Red Cross, agreed on the need to rely on research drawn from local environments of conflict areas.
Giannou recorded his experiences of treating wounded people in Palestinian camps under Israeli siege in Lebanon in his book “Besieged: A Doctor’s Story of Life and Death in Beirut.”