Москва, Щёлковское ш.,
дом 21, корпус 2
Phone: +7 (905) 774-34-34
Doctor of Medicine Khani Al-Juhmani is a physician, an active public figure in the struggle to create a safe environment for people in different regions of the planet. As regional director, he has represented the Framework Convention Alliance in the Eastern Mediterranean Region since 2006. In addition, Dr. Al-Juhmani, since 2008, has been a regional consultant for Global Health Bridges (GHB) in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, the President of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and a member of the Global Partnership Steering Group for a Tobacco Free Environment. Dr. Al-Juhmani is a board certified advocate and policy-maker for tobacco control and tobacco cessation. A volunteer for the International Red Cross. Life position and goal – helping people. His story is about how the Foundation for Research and Treatment of Retinal Diseases helped him in a very difficult situation.
– I am an active person by nature. I love movement in life. I really like to help, save. The old meaning of my name is “the chief in the clan, taking care of everyone.” That is, not that I am in charge and you all serve me, but that I must help everyone and serve everyone, because I am in charge. Defender. Such an understanding of seniority. We say that the name is part of the character. Well, at least I’m trying. And I also love to travel around the world and see different countries and communicate with people. I have worked in the healthcare system in several countries. Left Syria at the age of seventeen to study in Russia. Graduated from the 3rd Medical, Faculty of General Medicine, returned home to serve in the army and then began to travel around the world. Worked as a volunteer for humanitarian organizations. Then I was taken on by an international organization for the fight against tobacco. And for about seven years I was with them. And then I started working as a doctor at the International Committee of the Red Cross. I have three specialties: reflexology, one might say neurology too, acupuncture, healthcare organization. In England, I studied International Standards for Health Organization.
– And what happened to you?
– After completing my next mission at the Red Cross last August, I came to Russia for a little rest, because my children live here. And then I had a retinal detachment. And according to the rules of the Red Cross, a person cannot go to a new place of work if they have health problems.
– How did you realize the seriousness of the problem?
– I am a doctor, I realized that this is a detachment. And that everything is very serious. And that I have practically no time. And all my work depends on the eyes: I have to see everything with my own eyes and on the basis of what I saw myself, assess the situation, I have to talk to people and see their reactions and look into their eyes, I have to work at the computer, write a lot.
– What was the cause of the trouble?
– Why this happened to me, I don’t know exactly. Possibly a complication from previous cataract surgery. Or psychological reasons: my parents are in Syria, I have not seen them for a long time, I am worried about them, for me happiness is to see everyone in the same house at the same table. There are also personal, family circumstances. Probably it all came together. In addition, I do sports – this can be called aggressive fitness: 2-3 hours in a row without stopping, and so on for more than thirty-five years!
– After all, you have citizenship of another country…
– Yes, I do. I rushed to my friend – he is a Russian Syrian, an optometrist. He said that I urgently needed a surgeon. It was August, and I had difficulties with money, because my main job is volunteering. The friend promised to help and approached the Foundation for Research and Treatment of Retinal Diseases. I came over. People at the Foundation spoke to me very well! And immediately an operation was scheduled. First there was one, then there was another, final.
– How do you feel now?
– Now I can work. However, with some restrictions. For example, there are restrictions on air travel. I think to myself that I can fly in airplanes. But I am a doctor and I agree to follow medical instructions. For now, I will work at a calmer pace, wait for a full recovery. But I haven’t lost my job. Because there were people who took care of me. They did it on time.
– What does care consist of? Many people think that it is enough to say to someone in trouble: well, it’s nothing, my friend, everything will be fine! – that’s taken care of.
– No, this is a very important and serious thing, a lot of responsibility. It all depends on the situation in which the person requiring care finds himself, who he is – whom I am helping – and what opportunities I have. Relatives should be given absolutely everything they need. I, as the oldest, try to provide all kinds of support. Financial, psychological. In the case of other people, you need to professionally and fairly assess their health and life.
– What have you personally managed to do for other people?
– I managed to convince my superiors to launch several projects related to health care in Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan … For ethical reasons, I will not talk about this, but I have succeeded. Sometimes such a project involves helping a group of people, and sometimes – one person. It doesn’t matter. There have been many cases in my memory when, due to the fact that help was provided on time, the life of a person or many people at once changed for the better. Or the trouble just didn’t happen, and life went on as it was before. This is also happiness.
– Some problems require the efforts of the whole community.
– Yes, as in the case of tobacco, this is not even a problem of one separate state. I participated in the drafting of the anti-smoking law in public places. During one of the conferences in South Africa, there was a discussion about hookahs: those countries where hookahs had not yet reached by then objected to their mentioning in general documents – it was not their problem. And now hookahs are in Russia, in Europe – everywhere.
– What do you think: does modern man care about his health?
– A clever man does. Health is a gift from God. We must cherish this gift. It is entrusted to us from above. We need to worry, be afraid of diseases, be treated, avoid harm …
– Is it customary in Russia to take care of human health at the level of society?
– I don’t like everything about the Russian healthcare system. There are excellent doctors in Russia. An example is this operation of mine, which was carried out at the Foundation. And education here is good, just wonderful. I know, I studied here. They give you the opportunity to practice very early on. From the third year, you are in the hospital – you have a ward, you have your patients. The professors we had at our institute – each one is worth more than a few Western ones. How many talented people there are at the RAMS (Russian Academy of Medical Sciences)! But the policy itself regarding health workers is still wrong. The authorities do not value smart doctors. Perhaps this is due to the beliefs of certain people in power. Perhaps they are being treated by other doctors?
– Do you believe that good returns good?
– It may not immediately return, but pass to another person, but this is all one chain. I never expected to receive a reward for my good deed. There were people, many people, who did not thank me because they believed that this all was my work. But I don’t think about it. And so the surgeon Tatiana Avanesova, who performed the operation on me, just thought about my retina and nothing else. She and those people who also work at the Foundation will receive a lot of good things in life. I wish them this. I hope. They do great things that people still lack.
– Some people reason like this: since everything around is a creation of God, it means that we must accept the disease, and not fight it.
– No. God invented a disease so that man could create a Doctor. His helper on earth.
Photo by: Evgeny Stetsko
Interviewed by Nina Chugunova