Dr Munjed Al Muderis
Dr Munjed Al Muderis at ACHSM, 2015

It would not be too strong a statement to say health can feel a little unhealthy at times. That is not a criticism of anything or anyone. It just goes with the territory as health systems respond to the changing needs of a growing and ageing population and as a result the health workforce feel stretched. That feeling can happen in a moment on any given day rather than it being a universal and enduring experience. It is of no surprise then that attending conferences is sometime perceived as taking time out masquerading in the form of professional development. However I believe it to be true that everyone goes hoping for inspiration or at the very least interesting discourse.

For me that inspiration came in the form of Dr Munjed Al Muderis, author of “Walking Free“, who spoke at the 2015 ACHSM conference in Melbourne.

I must profess to not having heard of Dr Muderis or his book so I found myself sitter up straighter as he recounted his extraordinary and true story of fleeing war torn Iraq to Australia and going on to be a pioneering osseointegration surgeon.

There is far greater depth to his story then I can ever do justice to in a blog however in brief the journey was sparked by his refusal to follow the orders of Military Police and surgically mutilate army deserters. Remarkably brave given he had just witnessed the execution of the head of surgery for doing the same.

Through all of that hardship, fearfulness of life being extinguished in the blink of any eye, what I found truly remarkable was the humility and humour with which Dr Muderis told his story. It seems extraordinary to say it but most of the time he had the audience in stitches – excuse the pun!

There is something about that that to me speaks to the resiliency of the human spirit. A natural use of humour affirming a person was not broken by their experience and an outward demonstration that they chose to remain at their best.

All through history and to present day there are countless stories of the capacity for people to be at their best when faced with adversity. There are plenty as well of people being at their worst. The health system will continue to present todays leaders with every opportunity to choose to be at their best.

Read the review of Dr Munjed Al Muderis’ book by Jean Fagan here