Hampstead surgeon flies out to help country with 10 surgeons for six million people

Barbara Jemec (right) outside Holy Spirit Hospital in Sierra Leone, with nurse Henrietta Bull

Barbara Jemec (right) outside Holy Spirit Hospital in Sierra Leone, with nurse Henrietta Bull - Credit: Archant

A top plastic surgeon from the Royal Free Hospital has flown to Sierra Leone this week on a mission to teach vital skills to local surgeons.

Barbara Jemec in theatre at the Royal Free Hospital in Pond Street, Hampstead

Barbara Jemec in theatre at the Royal Free Hospital in Pond Street, Hampstead - Credit: Archant

Barbara Jemec is returning to the country – which she says has only 10 surgeons despite having a population of six million – to share her expertise after spending time there in 2010 treating children and adults with a wide variety of conditions affecting the hands and upper limbs.

The 47-year-old, who chairs the overseas interest group at the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, has been working in developing countries such as Ghana, Bolivia and Mali since 2004.

She believes that independence is the key to survival.

Miss Jemec, who left the UK on Saturday, said: “If you teach a man to fish he will be able to provide for his own family. The point is, I would like to impart knowledge that will make people become independent, and to be able to provide the service that we enjoy here.”


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The plastic surgery unit at the Royal Free in Pond Street, Hampstead, is one of the best in the UK and is a national centre of excellence for facial and ear surgery.

On this project Miss Jemec will be spending two weeks at Holy Spirit Hospital in Makeni along with two anaesthetists and one orthopaedic surgeon from hospitals around the UK.

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As well as sharing her skills, she will be equipped with supplies such as antibiotics, painkillers and plasters for use at the hospital which is in the north of Sierra Leone, about three hours drive from the capital Freetown.

Miss Jemec said two doctors from Ghana and Mali will also be flying to Sierra Leone to learn from her.

“I expect that we’ll see about 100 to 200 patients while we’re there and will operate on 30 to 50,” she said.

“They’re usually relatively short operations and they make such a difference to patients’ lives.

“There’s only about 100 doctors in Sierra Leone and 10 surgeons so the demand is very high.”

She will write a blog at www.royalfreenhs.wordpress.com.

The project is co-ordinated by the British Society for Surgery of the Hand and the charity ReSurge Africa.

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