x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Palestinian doctor who prescribed laughter

Ghassan Salem Suleiman Hanna, 59 a specialist in head and neck cancer, was the ENT consultant at the General (later County) Hospital in Hereford until 2007.


One of eight children, born into a Palestinian Christian family in Nablus, Ghassan Salem Suleiman Hanna was 17 years old when the Six-Day War broke out. He fled the conflict with only the clothes he stood up in and the dream of studying medicine at the KasrAlainy Medical School at Cairo University. His hope was to return one day to his homeland as a doctor. Despite a number of obstacles - the River Jordan being but one - he attained his goal. An aunt provided refuge in Amman from where, accepted both to study engineering at Baghdad University and medicine at Alexandria Medical School, he eventually qualified in Cairo.

He would never work in Palestine however. When he did return to Nablus, it was to an occupied city. With his name absent from the Israeli census, Hanna was no longer considered a Palestinian citizen. Instead, he made his way to Britain, by way of Kuwait Hospital in Dubai where he specialised in ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgery. He arrived in 1980, together with his wife, Wafa, who also came from Nablus, and went on to build a successful career as an otolaryngologist

A specialist in head and neck cancer, he was the ENT consultant at the General (later County) Hospital in Hereford until 2007. He continued working at the privately run Nuffield Hospital up until his death earlier this month following a heart attack at the age of 59. A keen gardener, father to four children - three of whom are doctors - Hanna was known for his keen sense of humour. Colleagues recalled a Christmas party at a local hotel where Hanna commandeered the microphone once the speeches were over and entertained the assembled company with jokes. What made the event all the more amusing to the other guests was that Hanna secreted himself under various tables around the venue and when, at last, he emerged, he could barely contain his own laughter.

Ghassan Salem Suleiman Hanna was born on Oct 19 1949. He died on June 13. He is survived by his wife Wafa, three daughters, all doctors, and a son who works for the National Health Service. * The National