Syria is finding itself without doctors as the civil war rages on.

Over the past five years, the Assad regime has hunted medical personnel down, killing an estimated 700 of them — sniping them, bombing them, torturing them.

In the city of Aleppo, which has become the center of the conflict, more than 95 percent of available doctors have fled or have been killed. Makeshift hospitals are routinely bombed and raided to make it difficult for people to receive treatment for their wounds.

Into this vacuum, medical students, ambulance drivers and other non-doctors are being forced to carry out procedures that are nearly impossible under the circumstances with the most rudimentary of tools.

Ben Taub recently explored this dire situation in a piece for the New Yorkerand revealed the high-tech way doctors are helping their patients.

A photo posted by Ben Taub (@bentaub91) on

The brave men and women who have stepped up to help the wounded are being trained via Skype, text messaging, and other remote means of communications.

It’s an outlandish situation all around. Just as it underscores the desperation of the Syrian people, it shows how technology can act as a lifeline in a crisis.

Ideally, medical students wouldn’t learn how to sew up a dying man through skype.

But Syria is the least ideal situation imaginable. Somehow, against all the odds, these learn-on-the-go doctors are saving people.

Taub’s profile centers on the British surgeon David Nott, who is one of the most experienced war zone doctors in the world. For more than two decades, Nott has traveled to the most embattled places to treat the wounded, accumulating invaluable knowledge and putting his life at risk.

After working in Syria for several months in 2013 and 2014, performing all manner of surgeries and training doctors, Nott has since been advising from afar.

Nott is part of a group of doctors and NGOs who are working together to help keep Syria’s medical community afloat.

Hospitals are rigged with cameras so that doctors around the world can monitor patients; seminars are held via Skype; and the covert transportation of vital supplies are coordinated with throw-away cell phones.

All -in -all it’s a precarious network that’s constantly under attack. But from the perspective of history, this state of affairs is nothing new.

Wars often obliterate medical infrastructure, forcing doctors to work with little to no supplies and become experts in every conceivable specialty.

But these hard circumstances have also inspired inventions that have advanced health care for the entire world.

New types of surgery, emergency relief, triage methods and medicines have been discovered on and around the battlefield.

And now, the crisis in Syria is showing how technology can become a powerful tool for educating a new generation of doctors.

Medical knowledge can now be shared far beyond the confines of a lecture hall or an operating room. Experts are becoming adept at relaying this information and, clearly, young doctors are capable of following instructions.

In the years ahead, this system will become more formalized and better funded and people everywhere will have the best medical help that humanity can offer.  


Defeat Poverty

Doctors are performing heart surgeries via Skype. This is the harsh reality of Syria.

By Joe McCarthy