Reem Abu-Rustum, MD FACOG is the founder and President of SANA Medical NGO (an ISUOG partner), dedicated to outreach obstetrical care in Lebanon. She is also ISUOG’s Ambassador to Lebanon and the Middle East, being actively involved in the integration of ultrasound in medical education. SANA celebrated 4 years of success this past May and in this post, Reem graciously shares her insight on not just outreach in the under deserved communities in Lebanon, but also accommodating new disadvantaged communities coming in from neighboring Syria as well.
Spring, earth’s time of rebirth and regeneration.
It brings with it endless hope and promise. This spring, it marked a most special time for SANA Medical NGO during which it celebrated its 4th birthday on 19 May 2015 and renewed its commitment to its mission.
It has been an amazing four years during which SANA had to evolve and adapt to the changing needs within the Lebanese Outreach. So many missions, lessons and stories have had a lifelong impact and have been forever etched within SANA’s memory; the endless images of stoic expectant mothers wearing appreciative smiles of reassurance and the bright faces of SANA’s trainees empowered by their new skill and knowledge. There lies the driving force behind SANA, infusing it with such a sense of purpose.
On its 4th birthday, SANA reflects back on its teachers, trainees, patients and supporters who have all been an endless well of inspiration.
Without its teachers, who served as the ultimate role model, SANA would not have come into existence. The incredible work that was being accomplished all over the globe by Alfred and Sharon Abuhamad, Titia Cohen-Overbeek, Jean-Claude Fauron, Lisbet Hansen, Philippe Jeanty, Anthony Johnson, Dario Paladini, Ann Tabor and the ISUOG Outreach volunteers is what led to the birth of SANA. It was founded in loving memory of Dr. Sana Elias with the goal of carrying out ISUOG Outreach’s work in ‘our own Lebanese backyard’. To its teachers, SANA is forever grateful.
Over the past 4 years, SANA has been blessed in being able to partake in the sonographic education of over 30 deeply committed and motivated trainees of various ages and qualifications. The training is ongoing at different phases to the diverse groups. Regardless of their background, whether or not they could read or write, they held the probe with contagious excitement and dedication soon after putting their newly acquired sonogaphic skills to tremendous use. Nothing is as gratifying as watching SANA’s trainees positively impact the medical care being provided to the underserved expectant mothers in the Lebanese Outreach, which now comprises of both native Lebanese mothers and Syrian refugees. SANA is proud of its first group of nine midwives and nurses who have completed the basic training and received ISUOG certificates. They are now undergoing continuous advanced training. In addition, one of SANA’s star trainees, Midwife Loulou, has lectured to the newest group of 16 midwifery students igniting their interest and capturing their attention. Today, SANA is as committed as ever to making available proper sonographic training to all interested probe-handlers.
As SANA reflects back, it becomes quite apparent that perhaps the most powerful images are those of its patients. SANA was established with a primary goal of providing high standard quality care to underserved Lebanese mothers. Little was it known back in 2011 that over one third of SANA’s patients would be Syrian refugees. SANA had to adapt to mounting needs where, in addition to the pre-existing suboptimal conditions in the Lebanese Outreach, it was faced with the additional challenges of a growing number of patients who had witnessed the atrocities of war in all its forms, due largely to the current conflict in Syria. But these patients were combatting death by bringing in life and as such, SANA has managed to take care of several patients now in their second and third pregnancies during their displacement in Lebanon. These patients tended to be either much younger or grand multiparas with higher rates of prior home births and prior cesarean births when compared to their Lebanese counterparts. SANA is indebted to its able partners who have facilitated its mission in delivering quality prenatal care to over 1000 patients. Most importantly now, it is through the actions of SANA’s trainees, who have been most gracious in providing quality prenatal care to underserved Lebanese and Syrian refugees, that SANA’s existence is validated.
And how could SANA have ever succeeded in any of its activities had it not been for its volunteers? They have been giving consistently and selflessly, serving as a key to SANA’s sustenance.
As SANA’s reflections come to a close, it looks forward to a most promising future fueled by unwavering passion and acquired wisdom, aided by its donors and supporters. Today, SANA renews its vows to carrying on with its mission thanking each and every one who has accompanied it on this most unforgettable journey in the glorious Lebanese Outreach.