Dr. Mamdouh Aker is a very big deal in Palestine, the kind of man everyone knows and respects, and it’s easy to see why. He’s urology surgeon and the deputy chair of the Board of Trustees of Berzeit University in Palestine’s West Bank. Among the founders of the Mandela Institute for Political Prisoners and the Independent Commission for Human Rights, Dr. Aker was also a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference and in the Palestinian-Israeli bilateral talks between 1991 and 1993. He’s also a member of several councils and committees focused on the health, education, and wellbeing of the Palestinian people. During his visit to the Carver College of Medicine he spoke to our students and faculty about the state of Palestinian healthcare. He was generous with his time, as he also sat down with med students Shakoora Sabree, Ossama Habu-Halawa, Jordan Harbaugh-Williams, and Joelle Friezen to discuss the topic. Our discussion was near the anniversary of his 45-day ordeal in the custody of Israeli security forces in the early 1990s because of his outspoken views that his Palestinian patients were prevented from receiving adequate healthcare.
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The challenges of providing healthcare in an occupied territory
Steve Sosebee is the president and CEO of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. He’s married to Dr. Zeena Salman, a pediatric oncologist working with the PCRF. For 25 years, PCRF has been leading medical missions to help children in the Middle East, helping children get medical treatment abroad, and delivering humanitarian aid. Their recent visit to the Carver College of Medicine gave Short Coats Reem Khodor, Ethan Craig, and Nico Dimenstein a chance to sit down with them to discuss the challenges and realities of working to provide healthcare within the confines of an occupied territory.
Those challenges are sometimes gargantuan, especially compared with the standard of care children receive in the United States. For example, urgently-needed medications and medical equipment being held up in customs; children who must be separated from family members for their cancer treatment because they are not allowed to travel with adults under the age of 55; dealing with the conflicting priorities of the Israeli military and Hamas, which each govern portions of Palestine.
Their passion for the mission–offering better lives to the children of this contested land–is evident. But somehow, any frustration they may feel about the difficulties they and their young beneficiaries face isn’t. Sosebee and Salman have a strikingly matter-of-fact view of the world in which they operate, and are doing what they must for the children and families caught up in a conflict not of their own design.
We Want to Hear From You
What are your experiences with organizations like PCRF or with medical missions abroad? What did you learn from your participation? Share them at 347-SHORTCT anytime, visit our Facebook group, or email email@example.com. Do all three!