PARIS: In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, Dr Hani Al-Johani, a Saudi brain and neurosurgeon at the Colmar hospital in eastern France, successfully operated on a young Kuwaiti woman to remove a large tumor cerebral.
The city of Colmar and the neighboring city of Strasbourg in eastern France have been particularly affected by the virus. Al-Johani said he was proud that despite the problems caused by this, he was able to get the woman in her thirties admitted to the hospital.
He came after he received a call from his parents in Paris asking for help when a scheduled surgery at a city hospital was canceled because the surgeon could not guarantee that there would be a place available in intensive care after the operation.
“The Kuwaiti medical attaché contacted several hospitals to request their surgery,” said Al-Johani. “No one, however, was ready to accept him at this critical time, even if his condition was going from bad to worse. I was called for my opinion and told them that the operation was urgent and could not be postponed because the tumor was putting pressure on the brain.
“When his parents called me, I told them that it would not be easy to admit him to Colmar hospital because the area had been devastated due to the COVID-19 crisis, and since I wasn’t a teacher, I didn’t have the power to get her to the hospital. ”
Nevertheless, he approached the management of the hospital, with whom he maintains good relations. They told him that it was impossible to operate on the woman, given the health crisis.
“Nevertheless, I went to the hospital management every day for two weeks, and I am very proud of it,” he said. “Of course, I am also proud of the success of the operation, but what I am most proud of is my persistence for two weeks. I never gave up and the administration finally agreed.
“I had to accept the responsibility of getting her in and doing the surgery, knowing that there was no guarantee of a vacant room to move into after the operation. However, I was sure things would be fine. “
Al-Johani, a faculty member at Al-Qassim University, arrived in France in 2010 with a scholarship from the Saudi government to specialize in neurosurgery.
After completing his medical internship at the Strasbourg CHU, he moved to Colmar hospital where he studied spinal surgery. He then acquired a third specialty, in neuro-oncology, and is today, during his last year in France before returning to Saudi Arabia, specializing in cerebrovascular diseases.
However, in 2017, he encountered a problem after completing a French medical scholarship in neurosurgery at Colmar Hospital. At the time, non-French surgeons were unable to continue working after completing a fellowship because membership in the National Order of French Physicians was necessary to do so, and foreign doctors could not apply.
“I was the first Saudi doctor authorized to join the order and it was thanks to an official from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Guillaume Huart, who is in charge of the health sector in the Middle East,” explained Al-Johani.
“I met him at the Saudi mission and asked him why I couldn’t continue working like my French colleagues. I had graduated from a French university like any French national. Does France not benefit from non-French doctors and their specialties, I asked? I also asked him if the diploma was wrong or if the French people simply did not like foreigners. Huart decided to find out more about the Saudi surgeon and contacted Colmar hospital.
“He spoke with Robin Srour, the head of the surgery department and one of the most famous Lebanese surgeons in France,” said Al-Johani. “He treated me like a son and I studied under him; in fact, he referred his private patients to me while I was still on a scholarship. After learning of this, Huart agreed to lobby on behalf of Al-Johani and, in late 2017, he was allowed to join the National College of Physicians.
“According to correspondence that Huart sent to me, I was the first Saudi doctor, not French, to join the Order,” he said. “Since then, I have operated on many Saudis, Emiratis and Kuwaitis.”
Al-Johani said he chose to study in France in the first place because he had spent three years studying in the United States, that he loved change and wanted a new experience. He ranks France among the best countries in the world for medicine and said he had benefited enormously from his time studying and working there.