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Monday, September 27, 2021

Ghassan Abu-Sittah: A War-Zone Surgeon Sets Up a Curriculum for Conflict Medicine

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Among the scenes that stick in her memory is Abu-Sittah’s success in formulating a comprehensive plan to treat hundreds of casualties in Gaza during the 2007 war, after the destruction of more than half the homes and the lack of water and electricity.

“He was not only a brilliant academic, but an excellent leader and coordinator for many of the projects they put together. But most of all, is being a merciful academic,” she said.

Important Work in Beirut

Abu-Sittah’s involvement in seven wars as a field doctor and his studies on the impact of war on child mortality, malnutrition rates and targeted health institutions in Palestine and Lebanon, led to his contributions as a co-author and editor of the book “Reconstructing the War Injured Patient.”

But his most prominent achievement was to set up the Conflict Medicine Program at the Global Health Institute of the American University of Beirut in 2015, in response to the increase at the university hospital of patients injured in the Syrian war and Iraqis with complex injuries after the American invasion of Baghdad.

Abu-Sittah explains that the main goal for establishing the program was “to create a multidisciplinary program to understand war injury as an endemic reality within this region.”

At that time, Abu-Sittah published several research papers on subjects including the impact of the American war on Iraq on child mortality and malnutrition, and how to improve health institutions in countries affected by war.

He also served as head of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Department at the AUB Medical Center from 2012 until last September.

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Since leaving AUB, he continues to direct the conflict medicine program, and is supervisor of much of the research done in cooperation with the Centre for Blast Injury Studies at Imperial College London, where he works as a professor.

He is currently working on a study of the injuries caused by Israeli army snipers on demonstrators in March 2018. Other projects of his include the manufacture of surgical fixators for fractures in war zones, and research into war injuries suffered by children, especially those who are subject to amputation.

“War is not a contingent event that has a beginning and an end, because its effects are of long-term nature on the population, the environment and all the influences of life,” he said.

“There must be international legislation that places sanctions on all parties to the conflict to ensure that such tragic incidents do not happen again.”

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