Yasser Saber Khalaf, strenght in the face of destiny

More than 30 WFNS Foundation Neurosurgical Training centers around the world are proud to offer young neurosurgeons from all around the world fellowship periods. Centers commit to providing food & accommodation and/or scholarship (visit WFNS.ORG). We would like to share the experience (life & neurosurgical career) of these young colleagues.

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My name is Dr. Yasser Saber Khalaf, 42 years, from Iraq. I have the Iraqi Board (Ph.D.) degree in the specialization of neurosurgery since 2012, the F.I.B.M.S.(NS).

My story may is not different from the story of any other Iraqi citizen who had faced many difficulties.I was born in Mosul, the center of the province of Nineveh, Iraq's second largest city, 400 km north of Iraq and the capital of the ancient great Assyrian civilization 2000 years BC.

I completed my primary and secondary school studies and graduated from the college of Medicine in Mosul / University of Mosul in 2002 where I had a Bachelor’s degree in medicine and general surgery and awarded the degree of M.B.Ch.B.

After graduation from the college, I completed my periodical residency in several hospitals in many cities. I was accepted to the Iraqi Board for Ph.D. degree in the field of Neurosurgery in 2006. The residency was for five and half years where I passed all tests and my examinations were successfully completed. Finally, I got the specialization in Neurosurgery in 2012. I was awarded the degree of Fellow of Iraqi Board in Medical Specialization in Neurosurgery {F.I.B.M.S. (NS).

My family consists of five brothers and two sisters. All of us are academics, who studied in various scientific specialties. Until now, some of my brothers are involved in science.

I am married; I have two children a boy 6 years and a daughter 3 years. My wife is in the fourth stage of the Arab Board (Ph.D.) in the specialization of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

I have to say that my father and mother helped us to achieve this academic status despite of all the harsh conditions.... My dear mother is a retired employee of the Central Bank of Iraq. My great father had a the Diploma from the Technical Institute. He is a specialist in the maintaining and operation of textile machines. When he was a director of the department, he invented the first project how to produce cotton in a medical laboratory in Mosul.

My story started in the morning of 5 May 2008, a man with 58 years old man was targeted by the terrorist under unknown circumstance. This victim was my father.

I was on the second stage of my Ph.D. in neurosurgery when my beloved father was shooted with seven bullets by Al-Qaeda terrorists gangs in 2008.They tried to kidnap him and took money from him but he refused and resisted them. I still remember every minute from this period of life.

This horrible event affected me badly. Until now memories make me enter in a psychological devastation. This wound is still bleeding inside of me and I will never forget it.

I remember very well how I received my beloved father in the hospital and he was conscious at that time. I had to move him from one place to another the hospital and to perform first aid to him. My white shirt turned to red because of massive bleeding of my beloved father.

I still remember with great sorrow the last moments of my beloved father and his last words and recommendations to me… I cannot forget until now the last looks of his eyes as he took his last breath.... So far, I cannot see his image without tears. Really I cannot look at his image until now without great pain and deep sadness. I miss him so much.

The pain was very deep. The tragedy is beyond any imagination. In the shadow of this disaster, I decided to end my relationship with medicine and stopped study the PhD degree. I was in a state of total collapse and shock. But I gathered all of my remaining strength and power and prepared myself well for challenging all difficulties and pain. I had to go beyond this painful stage with courage, patience and great responsibility to push the wheel of the family and my brother’s careers forward and complete the way and the will of my father. I realized that my collapse means the collapse of the entire family and the loss of the future of all my brothers. Everyone was in a state of total shock. I will say that I had to be strong in front of my family, but in fact, I felt very weak inside.

It took a long period to restore things, but at the end I was succeeded ... Yes ... I was succeeded and helped my family and myself to overcome this ordeal despite many failures trials.

After completing my family's affairs, I decided this time to turn to arrange myself. I was involved in a voluntary work at a hospital in the capital, the Neurosurgery teaching Hospital in Baghdad, for several months without pay to work as a surgeon and help my colleagues who received ten wounded every day.

Despite of all these tragedies and difficulties I am still inspiring to develop my career in my area and I am looking for all possible ways to get any opportunity that may be available to me for training or to receive any fellowship that may add or compensate something that I could not catch or missed during the last difficult years, I do ask for many organizations to give me a training fellowship In order to convey a small part of the suffering of my people to the outside world and to satisfy my thirst and hunger toward neurosurgery .

Welcome to Law Services

The story began in late September 2016 with the World Organization of neurosurgical societies when I wrote to Professor Dr. Miguel A. Arraez. I sent him a letter with my desire to get an opportunity for fellowship. Also I explained to him my difficult circumstances….

The correspondence lasted for months and the professor was so kind, he understood everything in details, and helped me every time, as it was difficult to obtain a visa and got the approval of the hospital and the department but all of these things are understood with patience, supported by professor and my great will.

After a while, I was able to transfer my work to Baghdad and since 2015 I am working as a specialist in Baghdad.

After a long period of thinking, I came to the full conviction to serve to people of my nation.

I was focusing on getting fellowship and after many months of difficulties I was accepted WFNS on a clinical fellowship at Carlos Haya University Hospital in Malaga, Spain.

Professor Dr.Miguels A.Arraez is the man who gave me this hope and supported me more than one year challenging all the difficulties and he understood all the difficulties that had faced me by his pure and fatherly spirit so that I have the opportunity to be one of his students, he is the man who gave the hope and the light in the dark tunnel…….. When I met him he said….always remember that always GOD with us…..indeed I miss him and all friendly staff.

Indeed I was lucky enough to meet professor and chairman Professor Dr. Miguel A.Arraez and all friendly medical staff at Neurosurgery department at Carlos Haya Hospital/Malaga/Spain, he kindly me to Neurosurgery department.

Professor Dr. Miguel A. Arraez is not only professor, but also can be my father whenever i need help in my everyday life. Training in this department is extremely exciting….so as all doctors are nice in this family….Carlos Haya Neurosurgery Department.

I am deeply impressed by the organized medical system with their best effort to help patients. I am sure that this precious experience is a great chance for every neurosurgeon who wants to discover the art of neurosurgery.

Within two months, I was very busy in medical training, attending operations (69 neurosurgical operations)… I made document in details of all operations by Carlos Haya Neurosurgical Log Book, taking all the post-operative medical reports, attending all morning meetings, attending in all twice weekly ground tour for patients, attending to lectures, getting to know creative surgeons, recording all the notes, knowing friends, knowing the wonderful Spanish people and beautiful Andalusian culture.

I have to say that I introduced two lectures during my fellowship training. The first one consists of two parts which I gave it the title of (IRAQ between past and present, facts and personal opinion / Health situation in Iraq ) in 15/2/2018 and my second lecture I titled as (2 months WFNS Fellowship In Malaga/Spain. Personal information’s and fellowship activities) and it was in 22/2/2018.…Indeed I was looking for anything that I can help to people of my country during my stay in Malaga.

I can say that i know now more than 120 Spanish words.

My schedule was intensive but I love it.

I spent days and nights thinking of what I can do when I return to my country and I think the most important thing is to get the subspecialty. And although it is mission impossible but I will fight to achieve it. I hope that I gave a good idea about my country, Iraq and its pain and suffer and I hope that it give a good impression on people of my country. It was the first time when I met Professor Dr. ARRAEZ at the Malaga airport it was Friday, December 29, 2017 the Professor said that Albert Einstein said In the middle of difficulties lies opportunity.

I will not forget this forever.

Two months in great Spain,a life experience and great memories occupied my heart and my brain for the rest of my life.