CYL 2021 ‘Doing the Right Thing’ launched with a fabulous talk titled ‘Leaving a Legacy in War Zones’ by David Nott, Professor of Surgery at Imperial College, London, and Consultant Surgeon at St Mary’s Hospital, London. David joined us via the big screen in the Bishop Centre and was streamed into class year-group bubbles to talk about his humble upbringing in Wales followed by grammar school in Manchester and having to resit his A Levels before gaining a place to study Medicine at St Andrew’s University. David’s advice to the girls was ‘Never give up! If you really want something, you can do it!’.
David was inspired by the final scene in the film ‘The Killing Fields’ set in front of the International Hospital, to take his career in a new direction and to work for the aid agencies Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Syria Relief. Normally surgeons specialise in particular fields, but a Senior Surgeon at a hospital in Kabul taught David everything he needed to know to give surgical treatment to patients who were victims of war injuries. David then went to work in conflict and catastrophe zones in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Chad, Darfur, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Central African Republic, Gaza and Nepal. As well as treating patients and raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for charitable causes, David teaches advanced surgical skills to local medics and surgeons when he is abroad. He talked about the experience of arriving at hospitals in war torn areas where the medical workers have no idea how to triage and decide which patients required the most urgent treatment. He also showed some hard hitting footage of doctors being targeted in the conflicts and of the horrific wounds of his patients. These were in amongst some moving stories of the patients who had survived and had been rehabilitated, many of them young children and babies.
David explained that Medicine can be a fantastic passport to travel the world and experience different cultures and to take on leadership roles. He emphasised the importance of communication skills and particularly in learning languages for this sort of work. David himself is fluent in English, Spanish, French and Arabic – as well as Welsh of course!
It was a truly inspiring talk from a man who has dedicated his life to doing the right thing.