Now that we’ve made it past winter term finals and I’ve had some time to sleep, I wanted to highlight a speaker whose I heard a few months ago at our school’s Physicians for Human Rights Conference. PHR is a national organization (many med schools have it), where students, physicians and healthcare allies all come together to discuss some of the global and local problems affecting health. One of their main commitments is viewing health as a human right.
This year’s conference was called “Violence Against Difference” and focused on mostly global issues. Topics include asylum, violence against women, genocide, solitary confinement, and access were discussed.
For me, what was most powerful was one of the speakers, Samer Attar. Attar is an orthopedic surgeon from Chicago who discussed his work in Aleppo. But rather than lecturing to us about the statistics and facts surrounding the human rights violations occurring in Syria–which is what we see on the news daily–his story was different. One PowerPoint. No words. Just pictures. Some photographs, some colored images by Syrian children. Here are some of the most powerful reflections I took away from his speech:
- A child’s drawing of deceased Syrians, who had smiles on their face because they were at peace and no longer hurting.
- “Killing one doctor is like killing 100 soldiers,” reflecting on the dangers of being a physician in the region.
- “Bombs are background noises. Like cars honking or birds chirping.”
- “There were bone fragments on skin with no bone fractures. That’s when [Attar] realized those are other people’s bones.”
- When asked about how the US can help or what supplies they can send: “Stop the barrel bombs, or send more body bags.”
- In reference to the Syrians who serve daily, including the medical student who dropped out of medical school so he could serve, “They are the heroes.”
The room was silent. Tears replaced the noise. I felt reinvigorated, reminded of my own pursuit of trauma medicine. A pursuit to serve.