October 29th to November 6th, 2022
“On October 29th, 2022, nine doctors from Oxford left Luton airport for our twelfth teaching trip to the Palestinian Territories, and our eighth teaching trip to Gaza. As always, we were on tenterhooks for weeks beforehand waiting to hear whether our permits had been issued by the Israeli authorities and sadly 3 permits were denied. Although there had originally been 13 in our party, Khaled Dawas, Naj Rahman and Shameq Sayeed were refused permits and could not join us. A further member of our team, Tanya Haj-Hassan had to cancel at the last minute as she had unfortunately got Covid. Nine of us therefore travelled, and as before we had a mixture of specialties represented– 2 surgeons – Nick Maynard and Mike Silva; 1 physician – Adam Bailey; 1 GP – Richard Harrington; 2 obstetricians – Debbie Harrington and Bettina Bottcher; 3 paediatricians – Andrew Wilkinson, Kate Wheeler and Jane Crawley. For Kate and Bettina this was the first time they had joined the Oxford Teaching Team, and they both contributed fantastically, demonstrating how important it is to have new blood introduced into our team!
We stayed the Saturday night in East Jerusalem in the Victoria Hotel and left early the next morning to travel to Gaza. After a very easy crossing through Erez, we were greeted by our great friend Anwar Alshaikhkhalil and the Lead Teaching Assistant Abdallah Alwali. The Teaching Assistants (both the Islamic University of Gaza IUG and Al Azhar University AUG each have 6, covering a variety of specialties) are picked from those junior doctors who have achieved the highest marks in their final exams, and spend a year in this role following their internship year. They coordinate all teaching for the clinical medical students, and not only do they help us hugely with the organisation of the week’s teaching, but also, we have the opportunity to spend time with them and impart some of our knowledge and experience. We believe this is really important, to introduce some sustainability that we hope will have a positive impact on the teaching of the students throughout the year. We spent a few hours with them the day we arrived and ran a structured Training the Trainers session with them on our last day. We particularly enjoyed that last day with them and hope they did as well!
Throughout the week, we followed the format of recent years, concentrating much of our teaching on history taking and clinical examination at the bedside. We spent each morning with the 6th year students seeing a variety of medical, surgical, obstetric, and paediatric patients. In the afternoon we went to the Islamic University of Gaza for scenario teaching sessions in paediatrics, medicine, obstetrics, and surgery, including paediatric resuscitation, obstetric emergencies, video sessions and the annual laparoscopic (keyhole) surgical skills competition! As in previous years we had a terrific Audit evening where 5th year students from IUG presented the top 6 audits from the last year and fielded some very challenging questions form the audience. The standard was very high, but we all agreed that the best presentation was by Mahmoud Ahmad Abo Ouda, who presented on: “Patients’ satisfaction about oncology care provided at Palestinian – Turkish Friendship Hospital”
As always, we received the most wonderful hospitality during our week, usually centred around magnificent food, not only renewing many friendships, but also making new ones. As has become tradition we had a Palestinian feast on the Friday lunchtime at the home of the Alastal family in South Gaza – it was particularly poignant as the father of the family, Naeem Alastal, who had been such a good friend to all of us over the years, had died of COVID during the pandemic. Another highlight of the trip was our visit to the Adam Centre for Child Mental Health in Gaza City, set up and run by the inspirational Mohammed El Sharif. Hundreds of thousands of children in Gaza are in need of psychosocial support as a result of war trauma, and we were privileged to see what Mohammed and his team of psychologists and psychiatrists do to help these children.
There were many demands on our time, but we never lost sight of the main purpose of our trip – to teach the clinical medical students. As in previous years, we found the students to be extremely bright and enthusiastic and they certainly lacked nothing in comparison to our Oxford students with regard to their knowledge. Their clinical skills have improved hugely in recent years and focussing on clinical teaching will remain core to our future teaching weeks in Gaza. The week was as rewarding as ever and having missed two annual trips as a result of the pandemic, we are committed to resuming our annual trips, and are already planning next year’s trip in October 2023! Although the trips are partly self-funded, we are extremely grateful to FQMS for the financial support we receive for this trip”.
Consultant Upper GI Surgeon
Oxford University Hospitals