From Syria to Wales: Dr Thaier Alhusain shares experience as a refugee doctor


Since 2002 the Wales Asylum Seeking and Refugee Doctors group (WARD) has been providing newly arrived asylum seeking and refugee doctors the opportunity to revalidate their qualifications, thus enabling them to develop and apply their skills within the NHS in Wales.The group is part of Displaced People in Action (DPIA), a registered charity that helps displaced people settle into their new lives in Wales.

The WARD team has developed a wide range of courses to ensure all refugee and asylum seeker doctors are able to attend a minimum programme of training. As a member of the WARD group, the Wales Deanery funds the International English Language Test (IELTS) and the Occupational English Test (OET), followed by the Professional Linguistics Assessment Board (PLAB) exams parts 1 and 2. Once the IELTS or OET and PLAB 1 and 2 have been obtained, the WARD group can offer a 6 month paid placement to those who have registered with the GMC and are ‘job ready’.

In an inspiring and incredibly moving TEDx talk recorded in March 2018, Dr Thaier Alhusain provides insight of his experiences as a newly qualified doctor in his home country of Syria. War had already broken out when Thaier began his specialty training, and instead of following his dream of becoming a plastic surgeon, he found himself treating those injured in the daily bombing and devastation. As the situation worsened, Thaier helped his family travel to Turkey while continuing to work in Syria with Doctors Without Borders before rejoining his family three months later. You can view the talk in its entirety here.

Since the TEDx talk...

At the end of his TEDx talk, Thaier explains that he is waiting to hear if he will be granted a licence by the General Medical Council (GMC). Fortunately his application was successful and, this week, Thaier kindly gave us an update on his situation:

"Receiving the license approval news was like a dream come true, I was at work at Royal Brompton and Harefield Trust as a patient coordinator when I received the email from the GMC stating that I had full registration and my happiness, as well as the excitement of the staff I worked with, were off the roof! I immediately wrote to Trish Moore at the Professional Support Unit at the Wales Deanery and asked if I could start a placement in Cardiff, a city I found peace in, and she was kind enough to organise everything for me.

At first I was hesitant, after all I hadn’t practised medicine for over five years, and thought perhaps I needed more training before I could start again. However, I told myself that I’ve already passed all of the assessments needed to get licensed and if the medical regulator in the UK thinks I am ready after testing me repeatedly then I am ready!

Moving back to Cardiff was as joyous as I knew it would be, and seeing the Heath Hospital for the first time was quite intimidating. It is a huge hospital after all, at least to my standards but I found the staff to be very supportive and kind. They understood my background and let me decide when I was ready to start assessing patients myself, which didn’t take long! I have to admit though, I did freeze during one or two of the assessments simply because I am doing a post in Psychiatry now, a specialty that I have no experience in at all, but once my colleagues stepped in I was able to go on.

This kind of supportive environment is not something that I am used to as my work experience was mainly in war areas where each one of us doctors was faced with a large number of cases, and we did not have time to discuss things or ask for second opinions from each other. We had to do it based on our best knowledge, otherwise doing nothing is of no benefit to those poor people who have travelled many miles to seek help.

My confidence in navigating the NHS has grown rapidly during the past eight weeks that I have worked here, and I am now looking for posts that carry more responsibility and are more representative of my past experience. Hopefully the post will be in Wales, as I feel grateful for all the help the Deanery has offered so far, and would love to give back to the community that welcomed me."

The Wales Deanery would like to thank Dr Thaier Alhusain for sharing his journey with us. We very much hope you remain in Wales!
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