Haitham has been accepted to complete the elective programme at John Radcliffe Hospital in Surgery in July 2023. Check out his testimonial and photos below.
“My journey began when I received an email from the University of Oxford, confirming that I was granted placement in their prestigious elective program. Eagerly awaiting the completion of my 5th-year exams, I could hardly contain my excitement about the upcoming adventure. It should come as no surprise that it was a lengthy journey I had to undertake. This started with the visa application process that coincided with my 5th year exams. It culminated in the strenuous task of navigating through the Rafah crossing. The four months leading up to the actual journey were demanding. However, after a challenging and long journey, I arrived in the UK on July 11, 2023.
Luckily, I was accepted into two distinct specialties, each for a four-week duration. My first elective took place in the Urology department at the renowned Churchill Hospital—a remarkable opportunity as it’s one of the biggest and premiere centres in the UK. The consultants were very welcoming and proved to be invaluable mentors. Here, I had my preliminary exposure to robotic-assisted surgery, which is standard practice for many procedures in Oxford. I witnessed and participated in a wide array of operations. It was new for me to see clinics run by nurses, such as cystoscopy and prostate biopsies. This immersion in the NHS system gave me insights into medicine. I couldn’t help but hope for a similar healthcare system in Palestine one day.
My second placement led me to UGI (Upper Gastrointestinal) surgery, though it was somewhat smaller in scale compared to Urology. Nevertheless, I gained invaluable experiences, from engaging clinics and enlightening teaching sessions to captivating moments in operating theatres. What surprised me were the innovative techniques and specialized equipment employed here, not readily available in my home country. I was also privileged to witness surgeries I had previously only encountered in textbooks, such as the complex three-stage robotic-assisted esophagealectomy.
Beyond my designated specialties, the welcoming atmosphere allowed me to explore other departments, including LGI (Lower Gastrointestinal) surgery and Breast surgery, where I observed surgeries and participated in multidisciplinary team (MDT) meetings. The complexity of cases handled here, including this particularly challenging colonic segmental resection initially planned for robotic surgery but later converted to laparoscopic and ultimately to open surgery, left a profound impression on me.
During my stay, I had the pleasure of meeting medical students from Jenin who came to Oxford for a short summer school. This provided a rare opportunity to connect with fellow countrymen in a foreign land. Additionally, I engaged with individuals involved in pro-Palestine organizations, discussing the healthcare situation in Palestine and brainstorming potential improvements. An exceptional moment was the chance to meet Sir Iain Chalmers, a co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration and coordinator of the James Lind Initiative, who himself worked in Gaza as a medical doctor along with his wife Jan during 1969-1970 with whom we discussed the Palestinian political and healthcare challenges. I was immensely pleased to receive one of his books.
Living abroad had its culinary challenges, but I was pleasured to discover my hidden culinary talents. I also cherished the interactions with medical students from Oxford and Elective colleagues coming from various corners of the globe. Comparing and contrasting medical systems between Palestine, their respective countries, and the UK provided valuable insights.
In conclusion, this elective experience at the University of Oxford has been transformative. It has broadened my horizons, deepened my medical knowledge, and expanded my network in the global medical community.
I am profoundly grateful to FQMS for investing in my education. Your generous support enabled me to embark on this extraordinary journey. Thank you!”