Presentation Title: Changing Lives with Lasers
As a physician in Lebanon, I have witnessed my country face unprecedented challenges in the last decade, all of which have negatively impacted the health-care system and access to medical care in numerous ways. Lebanon suffered concomitantly from a multitude of disastrous events, including an economic crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, the arrival of millions of Syrian and Palestinian refugees, and most importantly, an unparalleled blast, the largest non-nuclear explosion in history, that took place at the Beirut port on August 4, 2020.
These circumstances plunged Lebanon in an ongoing financial and economic collapse ranked worst in the world since the mid 19th century according to the United Nations. Lebanon ranks now as one of the poorest countries with over 80% of the population below the poverty line. It is currently one of the few countries where citizens are denied their basic human rights such as proper access to food, water, electricity, fuel, and healthcare.
As a physician and leader in the medical community in Lebanon, this situation has impacted me immensely at the professional level as well. In addition, the healthcare sector continues to suffer from scarcity of medications and medical equipment – mostly imported from abroad – leaving doctors with no choice but to resort to less efficacious alternatives. These circumstances, combined with insecurity and instability, led many qualified physicians to immigrate in search for better opportunities and a safer environment for them and their families. Despite numerous opportunities abroad, I was and remain determined to weather the storm as an effective leader, physician, philanthropist, and contributor to my society, both locally and globally, in the impactful field of Dermatology in which I have been extensively trained.
Being an expert in lasers and leading the department at a referral center for vascular lesions, I receive hundreds of patients annually with birthmarks. In addition to the cosmetic problem, these birthmarks, when present at vital locations, affect functionality, quality of life, and the patients’ psychological well-being. I found it heartbreaking and challenging to turn away patients with such disfiguring vascular lesions because of lack of funds for proper treatment. Thus, I made it my top priority to secure proper solutions to provide adequate care to both Lebanese and refugees in need. It brings me and my entire department immense pleasure to impact positively the lives of so many in despair over a condition that they deemed unsolvable due to their financial situation and the difficulty in reaching or lack of knowledge in finding treatment centers.
On a different front, I have also been involved in the recovery mission after the Beirut Port Explosion. This explosion, which took place on the 4th of August 2020, has been ranked as one of the biggest explosions ever witnessed in history, ripping the city of Beirut to shreds and disrupting an already fragile population and infrastructure, suffering simultaneously from civil unrest, ongoing economic crises, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The blast, which took Beirut within seconds, left 200 dead, thousands injured, and tens of thousands homeless. It was my duty to reopen the department and call on my team to return to help the overflowing emergency room with the injuries. My residents and I stayed in the hospital till the next day, suturing the injured while listening to their devastating stories. Furthermore, the thousands of people who survived were left with disfiguring scars, a constant and eternal reminder of that dreadful and terrifying event. To add to their sufferings, the majority of the injured could not afford scar treatment. My role as a dermatologist and laser expert was to alleviate the suffering of the survivors within all my capabilities. Again, I tremendously reduced the cost of the laser therapy, and offered many free laser treatments for patients with low income. I collaborated with different national and international NGOs and donors to help fund the laser scar treatment.