Local physician helps refugees in his homeland of Jordan

Local physician helps refugees in his homeland of Jordan

Dr. Wael Al-Husami treats a patient during his trip to help refugees in Jordan.

PAWTUCKET – The nation of Jordan is among those offering support in the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, but because the country doesn’t have the capacity to provide medical care to incoming refugees, the Syrian American Medical Society, or SAMS, has stepped in to help, sending groups of volunteer doctors to offer assistance.

One of those volunteers is Dr. Wael Al-Husami, a Jordanian physician who started a cardiology clinic at Nardone Medical Associates on School Street in Pawtucket.

Al-Husami works out of the Lahey Hospital in Burlington, Mass., is an assistant professor at Tufts University and a member of the board of trustees for Al-Khaldi Hospital in Jordan, and serves on the faculty board for Brown University.

Al-Husami accompanied SAMS on a mission trip in January, spending a week performing approximately 80 procedures on Syrian refugees. Al-Husami, who told The Breeze he plans to volunteer in two coming trips as well, says he doesn’t chip in just to say that he did.

“I want to feel it,” he said. “I want to know that I changed something.”

Al-Husami describes the United States as “every physician’s dream” in terms of advanced medicine. After receiving his medical degree in Jordan, he came to the States to further his studies, and his children expressed their desire to stay here. That doesn’t mean that his children are removed from their Jordanian culture, however.

“All my kids, they speak English as their first language but they speak Arabic very well, so they go to teach orphans in Jordan,” he said.

Jordan, which lies south of Syria, takes in approximately 1.4 million Syrian refugees, said Al-Husami. Having a population of 7 million people, the Jordanian government simply doesn’t have the resources to help such a large number of refugees, which is where SAMS comes into play.

SAMS describes a typical day of volunteering as beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m., but Al-Husami said in a story written for the Lifespan health care system, that his team “worked from 6 in the morning until 10 at night for six days” because “when you get there, you don’t want to leave any patients behind.” On their last mission trip in January, Al-Husami estimates that he and others serviced between 700 and 1,000 cardiology patients.

“Most of these patients, they don’t have access to life-saving procedures,” he says. After helping refugees, “you immediately see a change in their life, and some people, you know you saved their life. … I don’t know their political background, I know they need help, and that’s what I care about.”

Funding for the procedures comes solely from donations made to SAMS. Volunteers cover their own travel expenses, including those for hotels and food. Private donors contribute, as does the U.S. government.

“I think I can speak from a Jordanian perspective, and the United States does help, but I don’t think it’s enough,” said Al-Husami. “I have to be thankful to the people providing help, you can’t deny that, but you always wish there was more support, especially financially.”