Dr Shabnam Parkar is a Consultant Paediatric Surgeon at St George’s Hospital in Tooting. After many years treating children in the UK and providing medical care in Nepal, Dr Parkar has joined our team as a surgical trainer. Last month, she led paediatrics and co-led abdominal surgery on our Hostile Environment Surgical Training (HEST) course in Djibouti, empowering 15 Yemeni surgeons with the skills needed to treat children’s trauma injuries.
Yemen is a territory scarred by conflict. The state’s historic unrest is complex, with civil war, tribal tensions and extremist groups operating across the country. On-the-ground partners share that Yemeni surgeons commonly face injuries inflicted by war, such as gunshot wounds or landmine injuries requiring amputations. Car accidents are also common on uneven roads, leading to severe crush wounds or internal bleeding that demand urgent damage control.
Our teaching faculty, including the latest addition to our training team, Dr Shabnam Parkar, recently upskilled 15 Yemeni doctors in Djibouti, giving them the skills needed to better treat the injuries they see on a daily basis.
Dr Parkar led the paediatric module of our course, helping doctors understand how to use their surgical skills to give children with devastating injuries the very best chance of survival.
The power of education
Speaking with Dr Parkar about her humanitarian history, she shared: “For the past 10 years, I’ve worked with a charity called Health Partnership Nepal providing medical relief. We run health camps, offering medical care to 500 children and adults a day and performing minor surgeries in rural areas.
Every year, we knew we were doing good work, but it felt like applying a temporary plaster to a wound. We weren’t getting to the source or really identifying what the country’s core needs were. The charity’s direction fell into place when I was invited to operate on left-over cases from a previous mission.
I thought, why don’t I teach the local doctors how to perform safe inguinal hernia surgery, rather than patients waiting for my annual visit? A sustainable model of teaching. Today, Health Partnership Nepal provides medical care to local communities and teaches doctors vital clinical skills such as resuscitation.
It was that same ethos of education and training at the David Nott Foundation that I was drawn to.
I worked with David as his Senior House Officer and always knew I wanted to get involved in humanitarian work. After meeting Elly Nott at an event, we stayed in touch and I was later invited to their Train The Trainers course in London. I was honoured to join the Foundation as an official trainer in Djibouti, teaching 15 Yemeni surgeons.
Training in Djibouti
The doctors were highly experienced and mainly consisted of general, trauma, orthopaedic and vascular surgeons from all over Yemen. They received 5 days of intensive surgical training, empowering them with skills, tools and tips for better treating the complex wounds they see daily. From obstetrics to neurosurgery to mass casualty triage, the course is designed to create multi-skilled trauma surgeons that are ready to respond to a wide spectrum of injuries.
Many were familiar with how to handle damage control surgery and use skin flaps to treat large open wounds, however we got great feedback on orthopaedics and paediatrics, and the group discussions were fantastic.
It was lovely to see them presenting cases on their phones and sharing ideas of how they approach surgery with each other. The course created a platform for Yemeni doctors to connect and support each other, no matter the region they worked in.
The team really felt like a family – and everyone helped ensure the course was delivered to the highest standard for the doctors we met.”
A strengthened healthcare system
One participant shared, “Working in any war zone, I know I can use my new skills,” while another said they were more confident and that they could “face any emergency case” as a result of their training.
Our CEO and Co-Founder, Elly Nott, said: “This was our fifth mission with doctors from Yemen and we were honoured to have the opportunity to further expand the state’s network of skilled surgeons and strengthen their healthcare system.
No matter the conflict or disaster, we are passionate about empowering surgeons with skills we know can make the difference between a patient’s life or death.
Education is incredibly powerful – it forms the backbone of our Foundation. We look forward to future courses, led by our talented trainers, that will continue to benefit communities in Yemen.”
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