iYouth: 2019 reports
(1) Report from Theo Petitt
Medical Student, Imperial College, London
Visit to St. John Eye Hospital
4th – 6th September 2019
In September 2019, I was fortunate enough to return to the St John Eye Hospital, this time, having completed my first year at Imperial College School of Medicine. Although a lot had changed for me in my year at university, it was refreshing to be received by the same warm smiles and selfless hospitality offered by the staff at the facility for the summit. .
With a busy itinerary, within the first hour of arriving, we were whisked off to a greeting reception, meeting many influential characters involved within the Order of St John, including fundraisers, colleagues of the hospital and members of the numerous priories. As a medical student, it was fascinating to hear how each person became involved with the Order, and inspiring to know, that the current Hospitaller, Dr David Verity, was involved with the hospital at the tender age of seventeen. I am hopeful that my involvement with St. John can help me to mirror a career, which strays from the comfort of NHS wards and help me deliver aid to some of the most deprived areas of the world.
A day including numerous presentation from various staff members and volunteers at the Hospital highlighted the lengthy history of the care provided by the order around the world. But equally importantly, details about the aid provided currently by the Hospital, and the importance of research and funding. Unfortunately, between 2018 and 2019, the outreach mobile clinic funding has been cut, and because of these cuts, a service that was provided seven days a week formerly, has been reduced to a mere four days a week. To the communities of the West Bank, frequent visits by the Outreach team are of paramount importance, by reducing avoidable permanent loss of vision, providing medication prescriptions and referrals to the hospital which could ultimately save ones sight.
A medical student colleague/friend and I were privileged enough to be asked to join the outreach team to a community in Bethlehem. Similar to my outreach experience last year, we arrived to a room filled with people overwhelmed with gratitude for the service provided. Language was the largest barrier we faced, however, as the morning progressed, we had learnt enough vocabulary to allow us to carry out Visual Acuity test, before patients were then sent onto the doctor, who visualised the back of the eye with a slit lamp. All of the team were very accommodating of having us join them, and made us feel very welcome. Also in Bethlehem, we were fortunate enough to visit the Holy Family Hospital of the Order of Malta. We spent a few hours being shown around the impressive facilities, including a neonatal ICU. The order of St John is involved in providing care to neonates who present signs of retinopathy due to prematurity.
From Clinics in Hebron in the West Bank, to the Gaza Strip and of course the heart of the Order, in Jerusalem, St John Eye Hospital provides an irreplaceable and vital service to those in need. I believe it is enormously important to educate the future generation of doctors, so that similar work can continue well into the bright future of the Order, and is why I feel it is imperative to open the eyes of the world to this worthy cause, and the struggle of St John against adversity. I believe it would be massively beneficial to get more medical students out to Jerusalem and perhaps one of them may become a future Hospitaller, surgeon, or volunteer.
I would like to close with a huge thank you to St John for the work that you do, and for the lives you have changed.
(2) Report from Camille du Buisson
“This September, I had the opportunity to take part in the St John’s Eye Hospital Summit. In the five days I spent in Israel, I was able to see how the hospital staff work together and how outreach aids those unable to travel. I also experienced the diverse culture and learned about the history of the fascinating yet controversial state.
During the days of the summit, we were able to understand exactly how the organisation works so effectively together as a team to deliver such excellent healthcare to the people in need. As a medical student, I was particularly interested in the surgery, and I was lucky enough to be allowed into the theatre at St John’s Hospital to observe how the procedures are carried out. We were also permitted to observe the nurses in the NICU of the Holy Family Hospital that works in conjunction with St John’s. This was an incredibly special experience as paediatrics is a speciality that I am interested pursuing. Furthermore, I spent a morning at the outreach clinic in Bethlehem where I assisted with visual acuity tests. I quickly learnt the key words in Arabic and so was able to get more involved in the assessment. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the local people and understanding their culture from a new perspective.
Whilst in Jerusalem, I found the history and religious influence of the city fascinating. We visited various significant sights such as the Western Wall, The Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Seeing these landmarks in person really changed my perspective of what I learnt about Christianity, Judaism and Islam in school. I also took interest in the winding market streets and Jerusalem’s architecture, which takes influences from many different periods.
This trip to Israel was incredibly special and life-changing in my perspective of how I view the world. I am incredibly grateful that I was financially supported to attend this summit, I hope to return and to contribute more to this organisation that does so much for the people who are living in a place of such distress and uncertainty.
Camille du Buisson
(3) Report from Goya Verity
It was an honour to attend the Hospital’s 2nd Hospital and History Summit held in East Jerusalem this September and especially to have been able to give my personal contribution to the event by speaking of my experiences of Outreach with the Outreach Manager, Khaled Zuwaiter in the The Work of the Hospital Group talk carousel.
The talk gave me an opportunity to speak about Outreach from the eyes of a teenager and how, without studying a degree in medicine I am still able to help people see, metaphorically, of the high importance of the Outreach Progamme in and around the West Bank. I also streamed a video montage I created which featured moments of last year’s Hospital and History Summit which I also attended and a typical morning with the Outreach Team.
This year’s Hospital and History Summit was particularly attended by geographically diverse delegates and thus a privileged to extend the motto that St John lives by, pro fide pro utilitate hominum, to our St John friends and Supporters from all over the world.
A symposium was held in welcoming the Scottish Priory into the SOA (St John Ophthalmic Association for improving post-graduate teachings through links between international and St John Doctors and Staff). As a student in Durham, getting to know the Scottish Priory’s works and achievements has provided me food for thought for potential visits to Scotland to visit their St John Youth.
A photograph outside the Hospital steps will become one of many in the annals of the history and humanity at St John Eye Hospital.
As I explained in my Outreach talk, I cannot help medically to see, but I can help people see a situation, an opportunity, the importance of St John in this part of the world, especially the younger generation This I have managed to achieve by bringing out my 2 medical student friends; Theo Petitt at Imperial College, London who came last year to the summit with thanks to SOA sponsorship and this year I was able to recruit Camille Du Buisson who is at University of Birmingham Medical School as well. Having been welcomed into the St John family, they may perhaps be the next doctors of St John and so it was of importance to me to show them around the hospital and get hand on in helping cure preventable blindness (St John’s mission) by encouraging them to go on one of the Outreach Clinics to Bethlehem.
One particular highlight of the Summit was the group’s special visit to the Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem ran by the Order of Malta because of the medical links between the Venerable Orders of Malta and of St John of Jerusalem. The charitable maternal hospital runs an advanced neonatal ICU which is the only one in the region capable of delivering and caring for infants born before 32 weeks. The Holy Family Hospital and Retinal Specialists at St John work closely together where they screen premature babies for any abnormalities in the retina that may result from the high oxygen levels in the incubators – delivering sight and saving sight in the Holy Land. It is evident that the importance of St John’s goes beyond the hospital walls and the rooms of the Outreach Programmes.
During the Summit I was able to gage from the different delegates how interested their medical students and young people in their respective priories and countries are interested in getting involved with the work of St John. Having had insightful conversations with the delegates, particularly from Ireland and Sweden, I have plans to set up a ‘St John’s Youth’ Movement for the younger generations to get involved and to go and talk to these groups and to spread the words that St John lives by, pro fide, pro utilitate hominum, as we are the generation on whom the future of St John inevitably falls upon.
(4) Report from Harry Verity
The hospital invited an extensive and wide range of personnel to its second annual symposium event held in Jerusalem. With an eclectic range of representatives from the Knights of Malta, and the Swedish and Scottish delegations of St John international, the Summit also included a few Spanish supporters and British medical undergraduates.
The first day of this Hospital and History Summit was kickstarted with a tour around the hospital. Having in place an orderly plan of groups rotating between rooms and speakers each lecturing on dichotomous topics all entailing the hospital was paramount to its success. This day acted as a foundation builder to us in that we were informed of many topics that helped our basic understanding of the functionality of the hospital and it aided the fulfilment of the summit providing essential information. We then enjoyed lunch outside with the staff in the beautiful hospital gardens.
The second day we were divided into two groups, both with a guided tour, one to the Dome of the Rock, the other to the Old City and Mount of Olives. I was on the Mount of Olives excursion, and we were guided through several churches, one of which was a French Christian church in the name of the Mary, which was beside the ancients Baths of Bethesda. We trekked on to the Mount of Olives and were given a thorough spiritual and history detail of the area. The two groups reunited in the Muristan, where St John has a small clinic in the Old City with a lovely reunion garden. We all sat down and had a packed lunch made by the hospital. The whole day was so jam-packed with events I could go on another three pages.
The last and final day of the official summit we boarded a bus into the Palestinian town of Bethlehem. We visited the church of the nativity, a UNESCO world heritage site, again completed with a tour guide and another chance to be enthralled by this land and store the image and knowledge of the place in one’s mind forever. Making our way back to the Hospital we stopped to visit St John’s sister hospital, the Holy Family Hospital. I ventured in to look at the ICU and I was shown around, I was able to witness tiny little creatures barely yet living but securely with life thanks to the new incubators that they had had donated. We regressed to the hospital to refuel our batteries for the evening gala dinner hosted in the cloisters of the eye hospital.
In this report, I would also like to make a special thanks to the kitchen and cleaning staff of St John for such a welcoming event. They do a stupendous job and effort into making the food which is one of the unique and shaping aspects of St John eye hospital. The Summit was then closed by a service of rededication in St George’s Cathedral not far from the hospital.
In essence the second annual Summit was a well-rounded and productive few days where not only did we learn and take something back home with us, but we also had a very good time as well as helping save sight in the Middle East.