Dr. Zarour, in Israel for a 7-year training program in pediatric cardiac surgery with Save a Child’s Heart at the Wolfson Medical Center, was born in the West Bank. After his training, he hopes to return to home to build a pediatric cardiac surgery department at the hospital in Ramallah.
1.Where and when were you born?
I was born in 1985 in a village near Qalqilya in the West Bank.
2. Why did you want to become a doctor?
From a young age, I saw how doctors were able to help people and I wanted to be able to do the same. I felt that becoming a doctor would allow me to make the greatest impact in the lives of others.
3. What experiences motivated you to pursue medicine?
I always felt oriented towards sciences and medicine. Before I began my university degree, I pursued volunteer opportunities at hospitals and I participated in First Aid training at my school.
4. What medical training have you received and where?
I completed my medical degree at Al Fatah University in Tripoli, Libya. Following my graduation in 2010, I began my residency in cardiac surgery at the Ramallah Hospital in the West Bank. The focus was on adult cardiac surgery since there was no pediatric cardiac surgery department. I completed rotations in vascular surgery and general surgery at Rafidia Hospital in Nablus. After completing these rotations, I ultimately joined SACH in 2013 for a fellowship in pediatric cardiac surgery at Wolfson Medical Center.
5. Why did you choose your specialty?
At home, there is currently no department for pediatric cardiac surgery despite having many children with cardiac defects who require surgery. During my residency if we had a child with a congenital heart defect we would have to refer them elsewhere, outside of the West Bank. Given the complexity of congenital heart defects, and the need to operate immediately in many cases, transferring the patients is often quite difficult and challenging for the parent/caregiver who must travel with them.
Therefore, I chose this specialty because I feel that by providing pediatric cardiac surgery at home and opening a department in Ramallah, we can mitigate many of the problems associated with having to transfer children outside the country for surgery, and we can help many children by providing the care that is so greatly needed at home.
6. How did you find out about the medical training program in Israel?
Given that I was in the field of cardiac surgery, I had heard many positive things about SACH during my residency in Ramallah. I knew that many Palestinian children were being referred to and treated by SACH and I was impressed by the success of their surgeries and their surgical outcomes.
7. Why did you decide to pursue the program with Save a Child’s Heart?
I was looking for a residency that would be more medically advanced than those offered in Ramallah and that had a focus on pediatric cardiac surgery because I wanted to be able to provide this kind of surgery at home. Initially, I had interviews for fellowships in Jordan and at Tel HaShomer Hospital, but I ultimately chose to pursue the program with SACH because the environment was very welcoming, and it felt like the right fit. After one week at Wolfson I knew I had made the right decision and I am very happy with this decision today. I am grateful to both my chief doctor, Dr. Lior Sasson and Dr. Hagi Dekel, who I have worked closely with over the years.
8. Do your family and friends support your decision to pursue medical training in Israel?
Yes, they respect my decision to come to Israel for my medical training, as they know that the medicine in Israel is very high quality and that it is helping me to reach my goal of becoming a pediatric cardiac surgeon.
9. What is the status of pediatric cardiac care and/or your specialty in your home country?
At home there are only a few cardiac surgeons for adults, and there is currently no one who can provide pediatric cardiac surgery, despite the need. Children are routinely referred outside of the West Bank, either to Israel, Jordan or elsewhere for cardiac surgery. I am hoping to begin helping many of these children when I return home to the hospital in Ramallah.
10. What motivates you to train and return to your home country to practice medicine?
I am motivated by the prospect of building a pediatric cardiac surgery department at the hospital in Ramallah. Many of the other members of my team have received training with SACH over the years and we have the support of the Palestinian Ministry of Health to begin this work upon my return. I feel that we will be able to make a large impact at home and save the lives of many children.
11. How long is your training in Israel for?
I am now in my 7th and final year of training in Israel. I have completed and passed by first round of exams and in 4-5 months I will have my final exams, after which my training will be complete.
12. What experiences have you had so far with Save a Child's Heart have stuck out to you - can you share a story?
For every day I have spent with SACH, I could tell you a different and exciting story! This is because in cardiac surgery, every surgery is different and every day I am amazed by the work being done by SACH.
One specific experience I really enjoyed was the opportunity to participate on a surgical mission to Bucharest, Romania 2 years ago. It was a great experience, we worked very hard and we did many successful surgeries there.
13. What is your hope for the future?
I hope to use the skills I have gained while training with SACH to help as many children as I can in the future – children from any religion, any country and in any way that I can. As part of this, it is important to me to maintain my relationship with SACH so that we can continue to work together. On another note, SACH to me represents a vision for peace and connection between Israelis and Palestinians and I hope that I can promote this message through my work as well.