How surgeon fled Iraq war as teen to become Northwick Park medic

Hani has also been part of the medical team at Brentford Football Club since 2014.

Hani has also been part of the medical team at Brentford Football Club since 2014 - Credit: Northwick Park Hospital

A medic has shared his remarkable journey from fleeing sectarian violence in Iraq to becoming a surgeon at Northwick Park Hospital.

Hani Abdul-Jabar was forced to become a refugee as a 16-year-old in 1995 and made a 5,000km mile journey by road, air and sea in search of asylum in the UK.

“I am a dreamer and don’t believe in the impossible,” said the 42-year-old. 
“I arrived here with nowhere to stay, no money, no friends and a basic grasp of the English language. 

“It was tough but my attitude has always been to work hard, never give up and make the best of every day.”

The teenager initially lived in an asylum hostel in London juggling college with several part-time jobs including working as a handyman, a porter and kitchen assistant.

“Everyone in the hostel was in the same situation but many got stuck in the cycle of making ends meet through a succession of poorly paid manual jobs. It’s a hard trap to escape without education.”

Hani Abdul-Jabar as a 16-year-old

Hani Abdul-Jabar as a 16-year-old - Credit: Hani Abdul-Jabar

Hani’s passion was aeronautics, the science of flight, but his school teacher said his nationality, name and refugee status was likely to attract unwanted scrutiny and suggested medicine as a possible career.

“It was a bolt out of the blue,” he continued. “I’d never considered myself good enough to be a doctor in the UK but it is a decision I have never regretted.”

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Hani continued to hold down various jobs through medical school including working as healthcare assistant, a tiler and cab driver before graduating from Imperial College of Medicine.

“Northwick Park Hospital was my favourite place to work as a student, junior doctor and speciality trainee. Everyone was so friendly and I eventually came back.”

He was finally reunited with his family in 2008 and started work at Northwick Park in 2017 as consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon - becoming clinical trauma lead last August. 

Hani’s medical specialism sees him diagnose and treat injuries to bones, joints and structures that help movement, such as ligaments, tendons and muscles. He has a particular interest in complex trauma around the hip and knee in addition to joint replacement surgery. 

“[I believe in] hard work, perseverance, honesty and respect for one another,” he said. “It’s also important to physically look after yourself. I’ve always been active and enjoyed sports since a young age playing football at school and representing Iraq in tennis.”