“Without Borders, Without Passports”

samer-naji.jpgJune 9, 2009

“Because we are here, they are in our hearts and souls; because they are there, we are in their dreams and prayers,” Albert Davidoo, Chairman of the Assyrian Medical Society referencing the destitute brothers and sisters affected by the war in Iraq.

It’s been two years since Baby Kirillos first arrived in United States to be treated for a congenital heart disease at the Loma Linda University Hospital, a story I had followed then. Two years later, I stood in the large halls of Los Angeles airport as Dr. Samir Johna, an Associate Clinical Professor of Surgery at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, told me that the Assyrian Medical Society has intervened and successfully facilitated over seventy medical rescue missions for children, and some adults, from Iraq, a commission that was originally set to undertake only one child per year.

There is no escaping the landmark that this humanitarian organization has achieved. It has accomplished its mission and more. With dedicated professionals and volunteers at its access, it is ready to take the next step ~ spread globally. Based in Southern California, the organization has already operated in eleven countries, including Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, France, Iran, Russia, Malaysia and the United States. Perhaps the key to its huge success has always been taking that next leap of faith, even when there was no net, all along relying solely on the generosity of its small community to help with patient costs, transporting them from one continent to another, and “sporadic” medical teams who oftentimes performed “charitable” surgeries.

“Without borders, without passports” ~ the Assyrian Medical Society does not turn away any patient, regardless of background or religious affiliation. Its founders Albert Davidoo, Dr. Samir Johna, and Youkie Khaninia have created this organization on the following formula: three perfect points of a triangle with equal sides and equal angles, equating brotherly love, truth and relief ~ a core value based on equality, accountability and honesty. “Today, this golden triangle has become a circle of over twenty volunteer members, symbolizing the first wheel, invented during the Assyrian Empire (c 3500 B.C), with God at its axis,” remarked Mr. Davidoo.

On Saturday, June 6th, 2009, I attended one of the most successful events in the history of the Assyrian community’s philanthropic outreach & development programs. The Assyrian Medical Society commemorated its first year operating as a fully-pledged 501(c)(3) (license pending) organization at the Sheraton Hotel in Universal City. The program entrenched the guests with documentary films highlighting patients’ lives, awards to key persons who have been instrumental in changing lives of patients and their families, one child at a time, and communities at large in Iraq ~ giving hope to the hopeless.

Bearing testimony to the importance of medical research, the night’s main speaker Dr. Daniel Darvish, a bio-medical research doctor, left no stone unturned while addressing the audience from his wheelchair about the importance of research study of a rare disorder to find a cure for Hereditary Inclusion Body Myopathy (HIBM), a rare muscle wasting disorder for which there is no treatment or cure yet available.

Still curious about medical intervention? A year ago Samir Naji arrived from Iraq after losing a leg in a landmine explosion. Today, he has undergone corrective surgery to condition his leg for proper prosthetics at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Los Angeles. The future looks even brighter for five year-old Solen Israel who just arrived from Iraq with her mother Tara Hanna to undergo surgery for obliteration of the external ear, also at Shriner’s.

The global Assyrian community and its friends salute the Assyrian Medical Society on its accomplishments and congratulate its first year anniversary. We look forward to a long partnership and reading more success stories in the years to come.

To learn how you can help, please visit www.assyrianmedical.org

Helen Talia, MBA, CPA
Director, Chicago
Assyrian Medical Society