|Ayman Hakki | MD/Prof Georgetown U.||United States|
Re: ‘Syria is ...’
Last year, a U.S. news celebrity called Tim Russet passed away at the age of fifty-eight of obesity and some minor co-morbidities of obesity. At that moment, I came to the conclusion that I was sick and tired of being overweight. I feared I would share his fate in a few years. I investigated the issue thoroughly, and after much deliberation I chose to go back to Damascus to have my surgery. The reason for going back home was not an economic choice, because I qualified for Blue Cross and Blue Shield coverage for bypass. The reason was that I did not like the side effects of that particular obesity surgery. It became an issue of trust and I trusted Syria’s surgeons more than I trusted my colleagues in the US with the newer alternatives to gastric bypass surgery; the so called sleeve stomach. I had some concerns about our hospitals, but I must now acknowledge that the treatment I received at Damascus’ Medico-Surgical Hospital was outstanding and very personal. I was born in that same hospital in 1953, so it was ironic that I found myself once again awaiting the rebirth of my skinny new self (see photos).
My uncle Zakai’s name is inscribed on the hospital’s wall as a founding father. I come from a long line of physicians and my grand father Wahid Hakki (also a physician) single-handedly implemented a retirement fund for Syria’s physicians in the forties. I can’t think of a single surgeon in the US who I’d trust with my body and a scope more than my good friend Tarif Aita. The same thing goes for my other colleagues and friends. I would only trust Ibrahim Nejmeh with my eyes, Rashed El Yousef with my hernia, and Imad Rabbat with my ear, nose and throat. Rakan Chatty has unequaled manual dexterity, Huda Bitar is a great dermatologist and that’s just doctors who are my peers. Senior Syrian doctors and surgeons are equally impressive; Mohammad Shami treated me as if I was his own son during my years of working every summer at his hospital and that’s something I’ll never forget. I love all of these men and women dearly.
Why do we have so many great Syrian men and women physicians (in Syria and outside Syria)? I have only one answer; it’s normative. It’s very Syrian to be a doctor. Consider this historic tidbit; Hippocrates was born in the middle fifth century BC in Kos (a Greek Island off of the coast of Turkey) and died in Larissa around 400 BC. What is most interesting to me is that it is rumored that he spent his last years in Damascus, teaching at its “medical school”. This implies that the Father of Medicine worked in Damascus’ medical school. Syria had doctors even before medicine’s father was born.
Today, outstanding Syrian Doctors can be found everywhere on earth. In the US, studies have shown that close to 20% of Syrians living here are doctors. The fact that the president of Syria went to my medical school, where his degree was signed by my father in-law should surprise no one. We are a nation of physicians. Admittedly, the Baath party had something to do with putting out a huge number of us doctors. But Syria was making doctors before the Baath Party, before the United Arab Republic and even before Hippocrates! This brings us back to Damascus and my personal gamble. I was getting fat and about to get sick. Diet and exercise were no longer cutting it. I let Tarif almost painlessly remove most of my stomach with his scope…and it worked. I’m now slender and light. I’m off all the medicines for hyperlipidemia, early diabetes, and hypertension. What’s better, I actually look better (at least my wife -Hiba Mounir Bittar- says so).
Of course, things could have gone differently. I could have had a terrible complication. I could also have had my surgery done in DC, where I am a clinical professor of surgery considering that I live less than a mile from Georgetown. But I didn’t, and I’m very thankful to Dr. Aita, Dr. Nejmeh and Dr. Issam Rabat (Imad’s brother). My brother-in-law Nabil Kalai stayed up all night with me that first night at the hospital. I would like to also thank the doctors, nurses and staff at the hospital who made my stay comfortable. You have to love Syria and its people to trust them with your life. They came through for me, and they will come through for you. Just tell them I sent you.
Dr. Ayman Hakki is a board certified general surgeon who received plastic surgery training at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.He is one of the leading cosmetic surgeons in the Baltimore, Maryland area and an esteemed member of the team at Chesapeake Plastic Surgery Associates.He is a recognized portrait artist and brings his artistic skill to his work as a cosmetic surgeon.He has written a number of important scientific papers on the subject of cosmetic surgery and has presented these at national meetings.