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A celebration of overseas doctors

Life and work in the UK

With almost a third of doctors in Wales having trained overseas, BMA Cymru Wales is holding a special photography exhibition to mark their contribution to the NHS.

Photographs of 13 doctors from overseas and working in Wales were specially commissioned for the exhibition, which is taking place at BMA Cymru Wales’ headquarters in Cardiff.

BMA Welsh council chair David Bailey said: ‘Many overseas doctors provide support in out-of-hours services, help to reduce the burden in emergency departments while others work in the most deprived areas of Wales where patients problems are complex due to deprivation, poverty and mental health issues.

‘Their contribution is invaluable and this exhibition was our opportunity to celebrate and thank them.’


Amer Jafar

Born in Baghdad, Dr Amer Jafar was interested in life sciences and literature from an early age and describes his city of birth as being an important cultural, commercial and intellectual centre.

After completing A-levels, he secured a place to study medicine at the University of Baghdad. It was after he graduated that he decided that he wanted to study a postgraduate degree abroad.

Dr Jafar moved to Wales to undertake a PhD and his thesis was on new biomarkers for brain ischaemia. In 1997, he joined the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board as a staff grade doctor and he currently works in stroke medicine and supervises the training of fourth year medical students. Since his move from Iraq, Dr Jafar has developed a keen interest in Welsh culture and literature and established the Arabic Cultural Society in Wales. The society allows him to work closely with Welsh Writers.

Dr Jafar said: ‘Wales is seen as an appealing place to work as a doctor. The working environment is friendly and the nature of clinical practice in Wales allows doctors to build up their skills and competencies and compete with the rest of the world.’


Keshav Singhal

Dr Keshav Singhal was born in Gwalior, India, and as a little boy, he had ambitions of becoming an engineer – until his grandfather encouraged him to pursue a medical career.

His early interest in medicine was possibly down to the fact his father was a doctor and a professor in anaesthesia.

Dr Singhal went on to study medicine in Gajara Raja Medical School in Gwalior, Central India, and in 1996 he came to work in Wales as a consultant. He works as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon in Cardiff.

He said: ‘My initial thought when I arrived in Wales was that I had landed in the wettest place on Earth. But the people here were so friendly, I immediately felt at home.

‘The beautiful countryside and wonderful people makes Wales a great place to work.’


Luis F Jimenez Zaratiegui

Hailing from Pamplona, a small city in the Basque region of Spain, Dr Luis F Jimenez Zaratiegui was the second person in his family to go to medical school – following in the footsteps of his sister, who is three years older.

He came to the UK in 1989 after studying at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, and initially settled in England.

'I had some friends living in Wales,’ said Dr Zaratiegui. ‘And it wasn’t a difficult decision to move here – I found my future wife here.’

He currently works as a consultant anaesthetist at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend which he finds highly satisfying.

Dr Zaratiegui enjoys the beautiful countryside and coastline in Wales but is concerned about what the future holds for overseas doctors working in Wales and the UK post-Brexit.


Mark Taubert

Dr Mark Taubert originally moved to Wales via Scotland, where he studied medicine at the University of Dundee. Born in a small village in between Frankfurt am Main and Darmstadt, Germany, it was love that eventually brought him to Wales.

He explained: ‘In 2004 I fell in love with a Welsh woman and she introduced me to Cardiff with its immense cultural offerings. I remember going to my first Wales rugby game against Ireland. Wales won the grand slam that day and it was the most amazing sporting experience I have witnessed.’

Originally he worked in Wales as a doctor in a number of specialties including general practice, paediatrics, general medicine and ophthalmology.

Dr Taubert is now a palliative care consultant at Velindre Cancer Centre and enjoys the time he has with his patients and says there is a lot of laughter even in the most difficult of situations.

He said: ‘Palliative care is one of those specialties that is very aligned with the philosophy of the NHS as set out by Aneurin Bevan – striving for excellence in care and communication and delivering it to all, not just the privileged few.’


Ilona Schmidt

Dr Ilona Schmidt was born in Hungary and studied medicine at the University of Pécs Medical School. A job opportunity in 2007 saw her come to Wales and she was struck by its beauty.

She said: ‘I spent the day before my interview driving around the local beaches of Pembrokeshire and I’m still fascinated by the beauty of the surrounding areas. My initial thoughts were how green and tranquil this beautiful country is.’

Dr Schmidt got the job and was appointed an anaesthetic consultant at Hywel Dda University Health Board. She has also been won over by the Welsh people.

She added: ‘What I love most about Wales is how friendly everyone is and how people look out for each other.’


Muhammad Amin

Dr Muhammad Amin was born in Pakistan and was the first member of his family to study medicine. The decision was based on a realisation of the lack of health facilities in his country.

In 2009, he came to Wales to complete his professional and linguistic assessments board test and returned to Pakistan to do his foundation training as it was difficult to secure a position in the UK.

In 2015, Muhammad returned to Wales and currently works as a specialty doctor at Velindre Cancer Centre. He enjoys the research side of the job and looking for new ways to treat patients.

Dr Amin said: ‘People from overseas can sometimes be concerned about moving to a new country and might not know much about Wales and the friendly working environment here. When I came here I was taken aback by the training available to doctors and the community spirit.’


Sujatha Udayasankar

Born in India, Dr Sujatha Udayasankar graduated from Tamilnadu Dr MGR Medical University.

She left her home country to move to England to train as a foundation doctor, before moving to work across west Wales in various surgical sub specialities.

She has been working as a specialty doctor in general and breast surgery at Prince Philip Hospital for the past four years.

Dr Udayasankar believes that the greatest challenge facing doctors in Wales is delivering good patient care with the resources available.

A mother of two little boys, Dr Udayasankar said she chose Wales as a place to raise them.

She said: ‘It’s such a lovely environment.’


Owen Jerom Nicholas

After taking his GCSE exams in his native Malaysia, Dr Nicholas, who was in born in Kuching on the island of Borneo, decided to apply for a scholarship to study medicine in the United Kingdom.

He secured a place at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’ School of Medicine, University of London and then moved to Wales in 2014.

Dr Nicholas works in Clinical Oncology at Velindre Cancer Centre and says he feels that we are getting closer to curing cancer and praised working with his colleagues.

He said: ‘There is a great work life balance here in Wales and once I finish in my clinic, I like to head down to the beach for a surf and a barbecue.’


Rajnesh Nirula

Dr Rajnesh Nirula was born in India and was a nephew of a surgeon, which sparked his interest in medicine.

He studied at King George’s Medical University in Lucknow, India before moving to the United Kingdom as part of a fellowship with the Royal Colleges.

Dr Nirula works in Urology and says that in his eyes, there is no better profession than medicine and that the NHS is unique and admired worldwide.

He said: ‘There is a shortage of doctors and increasing pressure facing NHS staff, but working in Wales is always a pleasure and the people are full of community spirit.

‘If you live in Wales you have no choice, you have to love rugby and we are lucky to have a spectacular stadium on our doorstep.


Ram Kumar

Dr Ram Kumar was the first in his family to study medicine and comes from from Coimbatore, south of India.

Dr Kumar worked as a GP in India for ten years before exploring the idea of working in the UK. In 1989, he moved to Grimsby and took his first job in emergency care before moving to Wales to work as an emergency care staff, associate specialist and specialty doctor.

Since 1995, Dr Kumar has been working in Emergency Medicine in Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr Tydfil, and says it didn’t take him long to settle in and think of himself as Welsh.

He said: ‘The people of Merthyr are open-minded and warm hearted and working at the centre of my community is what I love to do.’


Dwijen Baruah

After almost 40 years of living in Wales, Dr Dwijen Baruah says his opinion of Wales as a peaceful, happy and friendly place to work hasn’t changed.

Born in India, Dr Baruah studied medicine at Gauhati Medical College before working as a doctor for six years. He moved to Wales in 1979 to work in obstetrics and gynaecology.

He said: ‘I get so much enjoyment seeing the happy faces of my patients and their relatives. What else can a doctor ask for?’


Om Aggarwal

Dr Om Aggarwal was born India and moved to Kenya when he was just three months.

He first came to Wales to visit his brother who was studying to be a pharmacist in Cardiff before deciding to pursue a career in medicine.

Dr Aggarwal worked as a GP in Kenya before taking up a position in Cardiff where he has lived and worked ever since.

He said: ‘Although there is undoubtedly an increasing demand on the NHS without adequate resources, I love meeting patients from all walks of life and to me, Cardiff is one of the best cities in the world.’


Irina Halfacree

Dr Irina Halfacree was born in Romania and grew up during the Romanian Revolution – a time of violent civil unrest.

She studied Sociology as an undergraduate degree and a masters degree in Management in Bucharest. She moved to Wales in 2000 and became interested in medicine in her thirties when she got a place on a Graduate Entry Programme at Swansea University.

She is currently in GP training and enjoys the clinical challenges and the opportunities to build long-term relationships with patients.

She said: ‘The Welsh Government has a collaborative approach in dealing with their medical workforce which I like but I do feel that Wales is behind when it comes to technology and infrastructure.

‘Wales is such a beautiful country, I feel lucky to live in a place where I can hear the sea as I fall asleep and where I can go swimming in the sea when I feel like it. I find Welsh people to be very friendly. They also love singing – in Swansea alone there are at least five choirs.’

Photography by Warren Orchard

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