Healing the horror

May 1, 2014

Dr. Saleem Al-Nuaimi in Syria


As a member of Canadian Relief for Syria, Edmonton psychiatric resident Dr. Saleem Al-Nuaimi works to help people heal from the atrocities of war.

I can’t imagine not going back...As physicians we have an obligation to help our fellow humans, and this is one way I can do my part.


Learn more about the work of Canadian Relief for Syria.

In the midst of a complex civil war that has seen more than 100,000 people killed, an estimated two million Syrians have also fled to neighboring countries.

Those refugees, almost three-quarters of whom are women and children, arrive bearing both physical and psychological scars.

For Edmonton psychiatric resident Dr. Saleem Al-Nuaimi, the chance to help those refugees begin the process of healing has been life changing.

As a member of the organization Canadian Relief for Syria, Dr. Al-Nuaimi has traveled twice to the region, most recently at the end of August when he spent 12 days in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli.

SyriaThere he worked under the supervision of Edmonton staff psychiatrist Dr. Samer Aldandashi as part of a medical team that saw patients dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other psychological scars inflected by the horrors of war.

“It was much more stressful this time, because there was so much more demand for services,” he explains. “And the scale of the atrocities that are happening are so severe and the conflict has stretched on for so long, that the psychiatric impact is profound.”

In addition to huge rates of PTSD, anxiety and depression, Dr. Al-Nuaimi saw many children who were left mute because of the trauma. “We did our best to prioritize and assess those most in need.”

While there, Dr. Al-Nuaimi worked with local health care providers to develop treatment plans that will carry on after his departure.

“We’ve also been using a tele-psychiatry model, which is something Alberta psychiatrists use frequently to work with patients in remote communities. So we know how to use the technology.”

Although the work is both emotionally and physically exhausting, Dr. Al-Nuaimi is looking forward to returning to the region to continue his work. “I can’t imagine not going back,” he says.

“As physicians we have an obligation to help our fellow humans, and this is one way I can do my part.”

More about this initiative 

Alberta Medical Association Mission: Advocate for and support Alberta physicians. Strengthen their leadership in the provision of sustainable quality care.