July 1, 2020

As a doctor, I have trained to serve my fellow human beings. There have been few experiences that have touched me as much as volunteering on a medical mission to Jordan with the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS). As a dermatologist, I knew my services were needed.

Refugees did not have the luxury of getting basic medical treatment, let alone specialized dermatologic treatment. Many of my patients were children. 

Prior to the trip, my colleague, Dr. Sarah Ferrer, and I prepared many samples, lotions, creams, and medications to take with us to Jordan. We worked with the SAMS team in Jordan to be able to bring local medications to this vulnerable population.

We saw the most patients in Al-Zaatari and Al-Azraq Refugee Camps. We alternated locations so we can have the most coverage. We were also lucky to have local medical students and pharmacy students to help scribe, distribute medications, and translate. We could not have done it without them.


The set-up was very basic and we had to improvise.

I had to be the plysician and the pharmacist. Our medical supplies were limited but the demand for our services was unlimited. One of the most painful moments for me was telling someone with a bad skin disorder (psoriasis) or severe acne that I did not have enough medication to help. I did what I could and treated them with compassion and respect. Many of them waited for hours and sometimes the whole day for a few minutes of my time and a tube of medication. Sometimes we even had to turn people away when we ran out of time. I really tried my best to see everyone and on the days we did that, I felt euphoric!

In some patient’s eyes I saw hope but in other eyes I saw despair and hopelessness. Rafif, a five-year-old Syrian refugee suffering from eczema. After I treated her, she was very happy. 

“I hope to become a dermatologist like my kind doctor who treated me today. I want to thank him for taking care of me and being so nice to me.”

-Rafif, 5, Syrian Refugee in Jordan

Rafif is a refugee living at Al-Azraq Camp. It’s moments like these that give me hope. I am happy and hopeful that Rafif will be able to carry the torch and treat patients one day. At the end I know my trip was just a drop in the bucket but it was a drop that I hope made a small difference.

Written by Dr. Bishr Al Dabagh, Dermatologist & SAMS Volunteer