Top North West plastic surgeon set to treat Syrian civil war injured

A leading plastic surgeon from Liverpool is heading to Jordan on a charity mission to treat wounded Syrian refugees whose lives have been torn apart by the civil war engulfing the country.

Ali Juma, a surgeon based at the Spire Murrayfield Hospital in Wirral, will travel to Jordan to assist with an international humanitarian effort by offering his medical skills in the capital, Amman.

The eight-day mission, organised by worldwide charity LEAP Global Missions, will see Ali and a cohort of international plastic surgeons perform round-the-clock reconstructive surgery on children and adults who have suffered devastating war wounds including electrical burns, and traumatic injuries caused by gunshots and explosives.

The 53-year-old, who has more than 23 years’ experience in plastic surgery, will also share his specialist expertise with locally-based doctors to enhance their work and learn more about surgical developments elsewhere in the world.

“I have family and friends in Jordan and have visited the country before but to go to Jordan on a medical mission will be really interesting,” said Ali, who lives with his wife and two sons, aged six and 10, in Aigburth.

“I have a positive nervousness about going because I’ve never practised abroad before.

“The fact that I’m helping people is really exciting to me as a doctor because you want to give something back. One way to give is to donate your time as well as expertise. It is time away from my wife and children, and without their support it would have been difficult.

“It’ll be nice to meet other surgeons. It will be a learning experience as well as a humbling one because you’re working in another country and giving to people who need your expertise.

“At the same time, you’re meeting other organisations and being introduced to people from across the world so you can learn from their experiences and surgical techniques.”

Ali was born in Iraq where he lived with his parents until the age of 10 before moving with his family to Abu Dhabi.

He won an education scholarship at The Kings School in Canterbury in 1978 when he was aged 15 and later went on to complete his general medicine degree at St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College in London.

Ali embarked on his surgical training rotation in London at the city’s Guy’s & St Thomas’s Hospital and other South East London hospitals before gaining a research fellowships at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and doing his training in plastic and reconstructive surgery on Merseyside.

Ali took on his first full-time consultant role at the Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire in November 2002 and remained exclusively with the NHS for 12 years before launching a full-time private practice.

The plastic surgeon stumbled across the charity LEAP while looking on the International Association of Plastic Surgeon’s website and decided he wanted to get involved.

“The purpose of the charity is to assist people who’ve experienced natural disasters such as those in Haiti and those who have been injured in war. We liaise with equivalent charities and local hospitals,” he said.

“The charity has surgeons registered all over the world, people in the UK, the US, Europe and the Middle East. When there’s a mission they have to fulfil they will contact a number of surgeons.

“This is the first mission I’m doing with the foundation. We will be working on war injured children and adults and carrying out reconstructive surgery.

“It will be educational, engaging with local organisations and people from adjacent countries, and some will be scheduled clinics and theatre. We’ll be talking to individual companies for equipment over the next few weeks, and all help is welcome.”

LEAP Global Missions provides free specialised surgical services to people in need across the world.

In the 24 years the charity has been in operation, it has delivered 9,080 free surgeries in 21 countries, 585 of which were held in 2014 alone.

To register with the charity, doctors must go through a strict vetting process. Each mission is self-funded and is organised at least six weeks in advance to enable volunteers to reorganise their work schedules.

Alison da Silva, Director of Spire Murrayfield Hospital, said: “This is a fantastic mission that is being undertaken to help people caught up in this terrible conflict in Syria.

“The work that Ali and the charity do out there is incredibly important and life-changing and here at Spire Murrayfield we will be happy to assist Ali in any way we can.”

That will include vital medical sutures and Spire Murrayfield are donating a supply of them for Ali to take with him to use to stitch wounds.

Ali is bilingual and is fluent in both English and Arabic which is an advantage to the charity when embarking on charity missions in the Middle East as it avoids the expense of an interpreter.

Despite an impressive career, Ali admits his forthcoming assignment promises to be one of his most challenging and rewarding experiences to date.

“It’s something totally different and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.

“I’ve always known I wanted to be a plastic surgeon. It’s a very dynamic area of medicine covering the whole body from head to toe. There’s so much innovation and it’s constantly evolving and at the forefront of cutting edge of any surgical domain.”

“Our specialty is about helping people to look and feel better again not just cosmetically but in all ways. It’s simply restoration of form and function in one parallel.”

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