Cardiff doctor first in Wales to win top medical award

Dr Laith AlRubaiy Image copyright British Society of Gastroenterology
Image caption This award recognises Dr AlRubaiy's research projects to improve patients' quality of life

A Cardiff doctor has become the first in Wales to win a prestigious award for his work in gastroenterology.

Dr Laith AlRubaiy has been made Young Gastroenterologist of the Year 2017 by the British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG).

The 37-year-old from Iraq has lived in Wales for the past 10 years, working in Bangor, Swansea, Llanelli and Merthyr Tydfil.

He said he was "very protective" of the NHS in Wales.

And he hopes the award will "highlight the positive contribution of overseas doctors in the NHS".

Dr AlRubaiy, who works at Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales, graduated from Basra School of medicine in 2003 and worked in Iraq until 2005.

"There's so much instability [in Iraq]. Most of the cases were the aftermath of the war," he said.

"And there's lots of infectious disease, a lot of explosions, terrorist related, car accidents and tribal fighting. People wait months and months for surgery.

"There's no 999 service in Iraq. If [patients] are far from the hospital and they are bleeding... a lot of them arrive dead at the hospital."

He said a lack of resources and structured healthcare in his home country meant the mortality rate was "very high".

Image copyright British Society of Gastroenterology
Image caption Dr AlRubaiy (second from right) works at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff

And there is "corruption on every single level of the health sector", he claimed.

He added: "There's no shortage of doctors in Iraq, there are plenty, it's a lack of infrastructure and nursing staff."

His wife, a London-born pharmacist of Iraqi heritage, and two children have never visited Iraq but he visits family in Basra: "I go by myself... they are scared and I am scared."

He also visited Kurdistan in 2013 to train doctors.

His time working as a doctor in his home country has given him a unique perspective on healthcare in Wales: "I'm very protective of the health system here. I think it's a blessing to have such good healthcare where everyone has treatment for free.

"It's not perfect but its not too far from perfect. If I give healthcare in Iraq two out of 10 I would give here nine out of 10."

And he said Cardiff "definitely has some of the best patients I've dealt with".

"It's a young city and you see a lot of students [who are] very educated, open-minded and very accepting of foreign doctors. They appreciate the work you are doing."

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