Nayef Aqel

Dr Nayef Aqel obituary

Dr Nayef Aqel passed away last month, read his obituary, which was written by one of his many friends, Dr Mohammad Qadiri. We all mourn him and give our condolences to his wife and 4 children.

“Sadness overwhelms me as I write on the passing of my friend and long-time colleague, Dr Nayef M Aqel on the 13th of October 2019. After a short illness. Nayef passed away peacefully at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge surrounded by his beloved family and friends, aged 65 years.

He is survived by his wife Dr Lama Zakarneh, and 4 children; Ameera, Nader, Hiba and Lujane.

It is ironic, but fitting, that he should spend his last days in the same hospital he loved and studied at as a PhD student.

Nayef was born in Jericho, Palestine and brought up in Amman, Jordan. He studied at Jordan University and qualified as a medical doctor in 1979. His ambition was endless. He worked at Irbid medical school, Yarmouk University, before pursuing further education and a PhD at Cambridge University. That was followed by a 5-year postgraduate training programme in histopathology and the award of the FRCPath diploma. 

Nayef worked as a consultant pathologist in several UK hospitals; Basildon Hospital, London North West University/ Northwick Park and Northampton Hospitals. He had a special interest in haematopathology and breast pathology. His career extended to almost 40 years.

Nayef is highly regarded for his professionalism. He devoted much of his time to teaching and supporting medical education with emphasis on Palestinian medical schools and training. He was a trustee of FQMS (Al-Quds Foundation for Medical Schools in Palestine) and supported the training of the under and postgraduate students both at professional and personal levels. Nayef also supported the development of pathology standards and services in many Arab countries. He participated in and ran many educational symposia voluntarily, often on his own, in Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and Sudan.

Nayef was also a family man. Supremely calm and thoughtful, rarely did he display anger. Even during his last days he was one who many turned to for wise counsel and considered advice and help.

Nayef loved to bring people together. He ran the Palestinian doctors’ dinner meetings for more than 20 years and successfully organised the latter himself 3 monthly. These were not only wonderful social gatherings but also intellectual and academic occasions.

Lama describes him as a great scholar, generous giver, amazing mentor and a man of honour. Nayef Aqel was indeed a wonderful man.

I would like to extend special thanks to the doctors and nurses at Northampton and Addenbrooke’s Hospitals for their loving care and support during Nayef’s final days.

‘May God accept his soul and grant him the highest place in Paradise’.”

Dr Mohammad R Qadiri
Consultant Physician


Ansam – undergraduate scholarship at An Najah

Ansam volunteering at the Dome of the Rock

Ansam, a 4th year medical student at An Najah University, was accepted for a full undergraduate scholarship through our partnership with the Madrinha Trust last year. Read about her experience:

“I can’t believe I just finished my third year as a medical student! It’s a feeling of happiness mixed with enthusiasm for what’s coming!

Now let me tell you a little about what I experienced in those 3 years. These years have never been easy. They were full of fatigue and staying up at night to study, full of double effort, extracurricular and voluntary work.

Three years ago, i was not like the current who I am! Much has changed. For the better as I see. I became responsible for myself and my decisions. My dreams grew and my abilities exceeded everyone’s expectations, including me, and my hopes exceeded the horizon!!!

I am now very proud of myself that I have taken the highest marks in these years and have been able to sustain my progress.

One of the most important things that happened was that I became a mentee of the Madrinha Trust. Yes, it was really a big turning point in my whole life. To be honest, I have no words to describe how I feel toward Madrinha. Madrinha’s mentees are so nice. We share each other good news and great achievements.

Of course, I must not forget to mention my wonderful mentor – Ayman – who always offers to help me.

Ansam volunteering

At the end of my 3rd year in college, I volunteered in the emergency department of a government hospital here in Nablus to get used to the nature of working in the fourth year, the first clinical year. It was a very joyful time I learned a lot such as nursing skills. Despite that pleasure, it was a bit tiring because I was working 6-7 hours without a break. But it was all easy when you see the smile of a young child after treating him or seeing an old man praying for God to reward me with good.

I am now starting my 4th year, it was said that it’s the hardest year of the six years of medicine, but I am very excited about it. Because brave people don’t stop hearing whispers of fear. They hear the whispers but take action anyway!”

Read about undergraduate scholarships here


Jamal – undergraduate scholarship at IUG

Jamal observing surgery

Jamal, a 4th year medical student at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), was accepted for a full undergraduate scholarship through our partnership with the Madrinha Trust last year. Read about his experience:


“I am Jamal a 22 year-old medical student at IUG. I belong to a family that consists of 10 members: my mother , 3 brothers, 5 sisters and me. My father died in 2007 when I was 10 years old. My mother took the responsibility to raise and educate her sons and daughters.

During this time my mother faced some difficulties concerning our financial sate and these difficulties were exacerbated when I decided to study medicine at IUG. Unfortunately, the fees in the Faculty of Medicine are extremely high. Because of that the need for a scholarship became very necessary, so that I could reach my dream of becoming a great doctor.

At this time, the Madrinha Trust responded to our need and gave me the wonderful opportunity to join their family. By applying to its programme of helping and supporting students at universities, they built a bridge to my goal. This scholarship solved a large part of the financial problem facing my mother and has made me more responsible and serious about my medical study. Also I get experience about managing my time between studying and developing myself outside of university life.

I am very thankful to your support in my educational route. I think I would’ve faced more obstacles and problems, if I didn’t get the chance to become a member of the Madrinha Trust family. As a result of the continuous observation of my mentor, I have even achieved a higher CGPA. I feel very proud to be a mentee under her supervision.

All of my thanks to you Dr Majd. I believe that I’m going to reach my goal through her help and advice about my studies and social life.”

Read about undergraduate scholarships here


Ayman – Madrinha Trust mentee and now mentor

Ayman and his mentor Nick
Ayman and his mentor Nick

Read a letter from Ayman about his experience going from being a mentor and sponsored by the Madrinha Trust to being a mentor to Ansam, a Palestinian medical student at An Najah University:

“It’s always challenging for me when it comes to write or describe what Madrinha has done since many years. 


I clearly remember the first moment I have been accepted as a mentee at Madrinha Trust in 2013. All days, without exception, were superb and astonishing. I enjoyed every single moment with Madrinha. My life has completely changed for the better after joining Madrinha and used all my abilities to succeed and improve myself at all aspects especially in studying the field I really like, Human Medicine. What proves this is the wondering I touched from the surrounding when they started saying: “What happened to Ayman”? “He became another person; especially when he came back from Wales in 2014”. Year after year I have started to recognise myself very well and take the lead and responsibility in doing my activities.

Two memories that it would be impossible to forget. The first one was in 2014 when I got an opportunity for elective training in Cardiff, Wales. The other one was in 2016 when I did a training at Oxford University Hospitals especially in the field I would really like to join soon; neurosurgery. These chances were just amazing, I have made great friends, acquired the brilliant knowledge, and also have touched the U.K. system and culture closely. 

In 2017, I got another chance of travelling to USA for clinical training at Harvard Medical School for two months. It was also a big addition to my life experience and got in touch with many kind people there who were always welcoming me and trying to support as much as possible. 

I finally successfully graduated as a medical doctor from Al-Quds Medical School-Jerusalem in 2017 after 6 years full of work and loss of sleep. However, they were full of memories and I think Madrinha made the years pass smoothly with no obstacles. 

Currently, I am working as a Teaching Assistant of Advanced Neurology for Master students at Al-Quds Medical School and also a Researcher of Neuroscience at the Palestinian Neuroscience Initiative which is also located at Al-Quds University. 

As a future plan, I have presented some documents to one of the reputed hospitals in Tel Aviv, Israel to do a neurosurgery specialty. I have received an initial approval from the chief of the department but I still await the final approval by the Israeli Ministry of Health. I will definitely keep you posted for any progress in this regard. 

I know I talk too much but I have many stories and things in my mind. Let me finish by writing about two main issues. At first, I am so proud of being a mentor after I spent a considerable period of time as a mentee (Although I am still a mentee for the great mentors and supervisions at Madrinha). At this moment I remember my late, wonderful and great mentor Dr. Nick Dudley who supported me a lot before he left us. Selma Harb came after that and also was so kind in helping me. The same applies to Dr. Khaled Dawas who is doing his best to support me. 

Now, I am the mentor for an amazing mentee; Ansam, who is smart and responsible for her studies and has been achieving top results in the last few years. I am quite sure she will repeat her success once again in the following years. 

Finally, I would like to send my warmest regards to Jania and Mike who have established this wonderful organization and I would like to do something similar in Palestine in the future. Further, my warmest regards to you, Rita, for your ongoing support and help. I look forward to meeting you all real soon. 

Together we can establish and develop innovative minds. 

Thank you. 


Read about undergraduate scholarships here


Majd – Madrinha mentor for undergraduate scholarship


Majd, a 2nd year anaesthesia resident, was sponsored by the Madrinha Trust when she was a medical student at Al Quds University. She is now a Madrinha mentor to Jamal, a medical student at IUG, who is part of the undergraduate scholarship programme. Read about her experience:

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”

Mahattma Ghandi

“When I started medical school, I was told “time flies”. I really never knew the meaning of that till today.

Three years after graduation, here I am a 2nd year anaesthesia resident working in a really big hospital – a dream came true.

The reason I am willing to endure all the pressure, stress, sacrifices and long hours is because I love what I do. Even if it is not the easiest path, choose what you love the most.

Behind my success story comes the motivation and support I got from my family and Madrhina. A long journey together, from being a medical student and a mentee, through internship and now residency and being a mentor, which I really like.

I’ve always liked giving advice and helping others and with mentoring Jamal this has given me the opportunity to achieve it. We not only talk about medicine, we also share stories of our families, friends and hobbies.

My father is fighting lung cancer now, Jamal helped a lot with his sweet words and prayers. I feel we are more than a mentor-mentee relationship, but brother and sister.

Madrhina family has done it all; introducing people from all over the world to each other, being exposed to different cultures and societies, helping students becoming what they want and giving all the support they need. I am happy and always grateful for what they did and still doing.

Thank you.”

Read about undergraduate scholarships here

Anas in Gaza

Dr Anas – journey to Gaza

Dr Anas’ journey to Gaza in June 2019 to help examine the medical students at the Islamic University of Gaza.

“Being a British trained doctor of Palestinian heritage, I have always wanted to travel to Palestine and contribute to its healthcare. Travelling with me was the FQMS Chairman, Khaled Dawas, and Oxford surgeon, Nick Maynard. Both of them were remarkable characters with a lot of connections and experiences in Gaza.

Arriving into the Gaza Strip was quite a surreal experience. It would be too easy to describe the hardship and difficulty of the lives of the people there. I suspect many of us would have read and seen it all before, such that we’ve become numb and inure to it. Rather what I wish to describe was what I didn’t expect from my visit there.

In spite of the adverse conditions people find themselves in, there was an atmosphere of community, drive and indomitable resilience. This was exemplified with the students and faculty at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG).

When it comes to final year exams, I often find that medical students become visibly nervous especially when I put on my expressionless poker face. Rather I was left in awe of the IUG students’ near textbook knowledge and ability to give it their best under exam conditions.

None of the opportunities and experiences afforded to these students at the IUG would have been possible were it not for the work of its dedicated faculty. Key amongst them is Dr Anwar Al Shaikh Khalil, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

FQMS has also done its part as the fruits of its funding are visible in the many resources and facilities used in the medical school. This should give its patrons a great source of pride and reason to continue their support!”

Read more about the professional development programme here


Abeer – pathology training


Abeer, originally from Gaza, has been supported by FQMS to do her pathology speciality training in Egypt and Jordan. This summer we helped her do an observership at Christie Hospital in Manchester. Read about her experience and the differences she experienced:

“In pathology we say (you cannot separate passion from pathology any more than you can separate a person’s spirit from his body).  The field of pathology is ever changing! That’s what makes it different from other specialties! The dynamics of change!

There is no doubt that training in different places has fostered my skill set as a clinician! I was privileged to train in three places, Cairo, Jordan and Manchester. Each place has its pros and cons!

Egypt pathology training

With a population of 97 million, Egypt has the hugest number of cases any pathologist that I’ve encountered! Whether you practice at Cairo University Hospital or Ain Shams Hospital, you are going to see a wide variety of cases. However, most cases are directed to the private practice labs, some of which are more advanced than the departments in teaching hospitals. In order to gain enough experience I chose to volunteer at one of those private labs 3 days a week after work. This combined experience helped me master my gross dissection skills and learn about different disease patterns! As a junior trainee have to figure your own way to meet the international standards and be able to practice independently!

Jordan pathology training

Pathology training in Jordan taught me to speak the international language of pathology! College of American Pathologists (CAP) protocols and WHO updates are followed on a daily basis! University hospitals establish a solid base for independent practice with a safe evidence based approach. The renowned King Hussein Cancer Centre is a referral centre for the entire region. Having said that, the large and varied number of cases means working under pressure and needing to manage your time carefully.

UK pathology training

This summer I was in Manchester. Manchester and all of the UK has a different system. The UK uses guidelines set by the Royal College, which is different from CAP. Big hospitals in UK are known for being the regional lead in sub-specialties. For example, Christie Hospital it is oncology cytogenetic and histopathology. Practising in one a hospital like this exposes you to rare cases and the different microscopic features for each disease. It introduced me to the power of subspecialty.”

Read more about the professional development programme here

Khamis Elessi

Dr Khamis – journey to the UK

Read Dr Khamis’ account of his journey to the UK:

“Warm greetings from Gaza.

I have just come back from the United Kingdom to my beloved yet still-besieged city of Gaza. During my 20 days visit to the UK (from 16th July until 3rd August 2019), I visited the historic city of Oxford where I was able to catch the final day of the EBM-LIVE 19 Conference. After that my schedule was very busy with useful meetings and talks.

On my agenda were meetings with:

  • Professor Carl Heneghan – Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine.
  • Sir Iain Chalmers – former Chief Editor of James Lind Library – to discuss new research ideas and future collaboration.
  • Emeritus Professor Dr John Judkin to discuss the proposed plans to prevent and reduce the incidence and the number of complications from non-communicable diseases.
  • Dr Liz Grant – Director of Global Health at Edinburgh University – where we discussed our plans to introduce a Diploma for Palliative Care in Gaza.
  • Scottish MSP Dr Pauline McNeil and other councillors in the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh.
  • Glasgow council chambers and was welcomed by 4 MPs and councillors. We discussed how to support Palestinians, especially in Gaza, by campaigning to lift the siege and the possibility of twinning the municipality of Gaza.
  • Dr Ibtahim Khadra – Associate Professor at Strathclyde University – and discussed with him the chances for getting more of our students to do postgraduate courses and receive grants.
  • Scottish Society of Art where we discussed how art and films can highlight the daily suffering of Palestinians. Also how films and art can help overcome the siege, by improving people’s mood.

I was also invited to give the following talks:

  • Clinical auditing and health service quality improvement by the Upper GI surgery department at UCLH.
  • Pain and palliative care issues at the Lancet Journal by Executive Editor Dr Tamara Lucas.

This trip was one of the most yielding and outstanding scientific trips I’ve had. Finally, I grab this opportunity to reiterate my sincere thanks and esteemed gratitude for FQMS and its management team. The timely financial extended to me during this trip by all, especially Khaled and Rita, and for their kindness and continued support.

Truly yours,

Dr. Khamis Elessi”

Read more about the professional development programme here

Eyad in hospital

Eyad’s experience – postgraduate training programme

Eyad was part of our postgraduate training programme for 2 years at King’s College London Hospital in orthopaedic surgery. He returned to Palestine in 2016 and now works at the Arab Care Hospital in Ramallah.

Eyad in surgery at Arab Care Hospital, Ramallah

“I had huge benefit from my training. King’s College is a trauma centre, so I was able to increase my experience in orthopaedic trauma, as well as my specialty training as I did fellowship in knee and shoulder surgery. It was great experience. I learnt a lot!

When I went back home I started to apply things I learnt clinically. In the past there was no shoulder and advanced knee surgery, so any case had to be transferred outside Palestine. So to some extent I have reduced the number of cases that have needed to be transferred.

In the future, I’m planning to engage myself in the general sector to continue to reduce the number of transferred cases; also if I can I will help in teaching. Also I will continue to develop myself and to have new experiences, so I can help our people.”

Read about the postgraduate training programme here


Islam’s experience – postgraduate subspeciality training

Islam has been completing our postgraduate subspeciality training at King’s College Hospital London in interventional radiology since July 2018.


“Throughout my training years in general radiology, I started to hear about a state-of-the-art branch of radiology called ‘interventional radiology’. In this branch, major interventional procedures are performed under image guidance.

Unfortunately, there are very few training opportunities in this field available in the Arab World. In Palestine, it’s much worse as only a few basic procedures are performed. This motivated me to apply through Juzoor and FQMS to do my subspeciality training at King’s College Hospital in London.

During the past year, I have learnt to do many procedures. From basic ones, like biopsies, to peripheral vascular angioplasties. During the upcoming year, I will get more training in oncological procedures and perform trans-arterial chemoembolisation (TACE) and aortic procedures (EVAR and TEVAR).

My plan, after I finish training, is to set up an interventional radiology practice in one of the main Palestinian hospitals. Through this I can reduce the suffering of my patients. Before they would’ve had to either get a more invasive procedure, like an amputation, or travel outside Palestine to get the required interventional radiology procedure.”

Read about the postgraduate subspeciality training programme here