Smartphone app connects docs in war-torn Syria to experts in US

Doc phone

In a rebel-held town in Syria cut off from humanitarian aid, smartphones and apps are lifelines for the two medical workers trying to help its residents.

The workers are getting support from a group of largely Syrian-American doctors, now called “Madaya Medical Consultants,” according to an Atlantic report. The physicians are offering expertise in areas including pediatrics, obstetrics and pulmonology through a WhatsApp chat room that supports the Madaya clinic around the clock.

Forty thousand people in the town of Madaya are cut off from the rest of the country and have had no humanitarian aid since May, according to the report.

The two medical workers who operate the clinic are a veterinarian in his mid-40s and a 25-year-old who was a first-year dental student when the war broke out in 2011. Both are working far beyond their training, but can connect to Wi-Fi thanks to nearby cell towers.

Realizing he could support the clinic using the Wi-Fi connection, an Indiana pulmonologist--a board member of the Syrian American Medical Society, a humanitarian organization staffed  by Syrian American doctors--put out a call on Facebook for Arabic-speaking doctors to join the effort.

While the clinicians sometimes send photos or video, the connection can be patchy making video sub-par and only sometimes making voice calls possible.

Madaya is one of the only besieged areas without any trained doctors. Doctors Without Borders says that throughout the country medical staff members are young or inexperienced and beyond their comfort zone. In April, one of the only pediatricians remaining in Aleppo was among the casualties of an air strike on one of the hospitals Doctors Without Borders supports there.

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