Physicians Travel to Serve Syrian Refugees

Physicians Travel to Serve Syrian Refugees

Last week NANI phyisicians, Wadah Atassi, MD and Madhavi Ryali, MD traveled to Lebanon with a group from the Syrian American Medical Association to provide free medical care to Syrian refugees for one week.

“A team of doctors and nurses from DuPage County, Chicago and Indiana will travel to Lebanon on a medical mission to help Syrian refugees. What they hope they get back is something bigger than what they plan to give,” Diane Pathieu from NBC 5 news writes.

“The anxiety is great, and the mission even greater. But it’s what the team hopes to take away from the people of Syria that will keep them strong and resilient.

“I think these people are going to give so much more to us. So as much as I consider this an altruistic medical mission, this is kind of selfish in a way. It will change me and allow me to re-evaluate who I am,” said Dr. Ryali.

The excerpt below is from a blog written by Dr. Naveed Iqbal MBBS, one of the medical mission team members.

“The condition of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon is the most desperate and neglected in the Middle East. Almost every refugee has a war injury, from chemical attacks to bombing raids inside Syria resulting in lifelong disabilities. Their living conditions are some of the most basic with poor sanitation; resulting in some diarrhoeal diseases, skin infections and stunted growth in most children as nutrition is limited. The long duration of our journeys to camps for various reasons such as challenging terrain, political instability, security barriers and general aversion to refugees making up 25% of this country may be the reason why access to help has been limited for these poor people.

As a medical team united for a common purpose, we pulled through [dangerous work environment and challenging travel conditions].”

This is an excerpt from a blog writtn by Dr. Madhavi Ryali.

“A group of us were sent to Bekaa Valley, which is a farming region 20 miles outside of Beirut in the northeast corner of the country. It lies on the border of Syria, and as such houses large populations of Syrian war refugees.

The SAMS Lebanese team gathered nephrology patients for me, and many of them were dialysis dependent. Dialysis dependence in any living condition is a tremendous weight to bear – the treatments are frequent, aggressive, and life sustaining.

Well, then imagine trying to sustain such a regimen in a besieged war zone. Even if one could fortuitously make the journey to a dialysis clinic in such a situation, they very likely have no means to pay for dialysis when there is no Medicare, no commercial insurance, no obamacare. The government barely supports food and water for refugees, let alone costly dialysis treatments.

SAMS steps in and graciously assists patients in finding NGOs to financially support their therapy. However, like everything else, dialysis must be rationed; patients get treatments twice a week instead of the recommended thrice weekly therapy. Younger patients are prioritized over the older. Over time, the toxic metabolic renal milieu catches up with these young people.

As expected, this past week has been an awakening of sorts. I’ve been managing complex medical issues for refugees; I’ve also been managing my own feelings of guilt knowing that at the end of this week I return to my comfortable home. Ironically, the patients I’ve treated are so much closer to their homeland than me, but they won’t be able to go home for a much, much longer stretch.”

In 2016, SAMS treated 3 million refugees. For more information about Syrian American Medical Society visit

Click here to read an article from the Daily Herald about the medical mission.


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