David Nott training

We translated our war surgery training into Ukrainian

In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we turned our life-saving course into a condensed recording and translated it into Ukrainian. We now invite every Ukrainian surgeon to contact us to receive this life-saving war surgery resource.

When the crisis began, our Co-Founder David Nott worked around the clock to condense our surgical training course into a 6-hour recording, divided into 15 chapters and packed full of surgical experience from the frontline. Chapters include triage, neurosurgery, damage control, burns, cardiothoracic, orthopaedics, paediatrics, plastic surgery and anaesthesiology.

David Nott delivering surgical training online.

Taking the training one step further, we’ve translated every chapter into Ukrainian to ensure our life-saving resource reaches every single doctor in need, no matter their ability to understand English.

Contact us if you're in Ukraine

Our Co-Founder, David Nott, said: “After Russia invaded Ukraine, I knew I had to get there. I had to help. Thankfully, I was able to get into Ukraine, volunteering my surgical skills in multiple hospitals right across the country and sharing our training recordings with the doctors I met.

Although a powerful resource, it quickly became clear that many didn’t speak English well and I knew we needed to work hard to ensure our training was even more accessible.

We’ve worked around the clock with Absolute Translations to translate every single chapter into Ukrainian and are now on a mission to ensure every doctor in the country has access.”

If you are a Ukrainian healthcare professional or know of doctors in need of help, we are here for you. Email us at enquiries@davidnottfoundation.com for access to our translated resource.

Email us today

Many thanks to the team at Absolute Translations for their hard work and dedication. 

Elly Nott presenting certificates

Training in Somaliland with 'A Woman of Firsts'

In March 2022, we were honoured to train 34 healthcare workers in Hargeisa, Somaliland. Here, our CEO Elly Nott shares how this HEST course came to fruition and how it marks the beginning of a special relationship with a very special hospital. 

Over Christmas, I came across a book. ‘A Woman of Firsts’ is Edna Adan Ismail’s inspiring story of how she became a pioneering political and global health leader and campaigner for women’s rights. The respect and affection in which she is held in her home country, Somaliland, is truly remarkable and witnessed wherever one goes with her.

Building an empire

In 1998, she began building a hospital on an empty patch of land in the capital of Somaliland, Hargeisa. Through her will and determination, the foundations Edna established became a maternity hospital, which has since diversified into a major referral institution.

The Edna Adan Hospital treats obstetric, paediatric, surgical and medical cases from across the Horn of Africa. The Edna Adan University provides skilled healthcare workers to work in the hospital and other institutions in Somaliland, consistently occupying the top of the teaching league tables.

When I contacted Edna and asked if she would be interested in us running a HEST course at her hospital, she welcomed the idea straight away.

From the moment we arrived in Somaliland, we felt the warmth of Edna’s hospitality and all the inspirational healthcare workers who had travelled from across the country to participate in our training. Our outstanding faculty enjoyed sharing knowledge and techniques that would make a real difference to the participants’ management of traumatic injuries.

A need for well-trained surgeons

There is a real need for our partnership. A 2020 paper for the Lancet written by Dr Shukri Dahir et al, concluded that ‘the surgical system in Somaliland did not reach any of the target indicator goals as defined by LCoGS’ [Lancet Commission on Global Surgery]. The greatest need was for protection against catastrophic expenditure for low-income families on medical care and access to well-trained surgeons, anaesthetists and obstetricians.

The HEST course was just the start of our collaboration. In the coming months, we will welcome the doctors we met to the UK for our next Train the Trainers course. This time, they will teach alongside our UK-based faculty. We will also continue to work with the dedicated healthcare workers of Somaliland to support their training and ensure local people have access to safe, skilled surgical care.

By chance, our course coincided with International Women’s Day (IWD). A solid third of the participants in this HEST course were women and we were delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to their surgical careers. To spend IWD 2022 in the company of Edna, and the healthcare workers she has inspired and mentored, was truly an honour.

More on our HEST course in Somaliland

Mother and child in Hargeisa

A lasting legacy in hospitals across Somaliland

Michael Odesoji, Surgical Nurse at St Mary’s Hospital, attended his first HEST course as Nurse Lead in Hargeisa, Somaliland. Here, Michael shares the importance of surgical nursing for improving patient safety, and how his training will make an impact right across the country.

Hargeisa was my first mission with the Foundation as Nurse Lead – and it was amazing. We trained 34 healthcare workers at the Edna Adan Hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

Following David Nott’s ethos, it’s important to ask healthcare workers what they need, rather than deciding for them. Imposing knowledge without insight isn’t useful. Some of the topics the participants wanted to cover included how to form a safety checklist for surgery, emotional preparation of patients for operations, and maintaining good antiseptic techniques in the operating theatre.

With Mubarak, the Nurse Anaesthetist at Edna Adan Hospital, I led an interactive session on the importance of the surgical safety checklist for both the multidisciplinary surgical team and the patients. It resonated really well with the participants and the hospital’s surgical theatre staff.

Making a big impact

I then helped to design a bespoke surgical safety checklist for the hospital, which suited the cultural environment of Somaliland, using the WHO surgical safety checklist template. The checklist was implemented and put into use in the operating theatre before the end of the course, which was incredible to see.

Mubarak took it upon himself to champion its continued use, as well as ensuring it is implemented in every hospital in Somaliland. This was fantastic to hear, as it will further enhance patients' safety and reduce avoidable mistakes in operating theatres across the region.

HEST in Hargeisa

I also organised a neonatal resuscitation session with the midwives and ward nurses, alongside Faculty Member, Dr Jeanne Frossard. The whole team were awesome and worked tirelessly to deliver the best possible experience for every trainee.

It was so exciting to see that the course was making a big impact in such a short period.

Moments to remember

Edna Adan Ismail, a passionate advocate for women’s health and Founder of the Edna Adan Hospital 20 years ago, was a force of nature and very welcoming. One of my best memories of the trip was when Edna and the hospital team organised a surprise birthday party for me, which was very thoughtful.

My first David Nott Foundation mission as Nurse Lead was an incredible one – and gave me a real favour for the real impact of the charity's mission. This trip was hopefully one of many.

Help us fund more missions

David Nott delivering surgical training online.

A mission to reach every healthcare professional in Ukraine

In response to the Ukrainian crisis, our Co-Founder David Nott and Former Consultant Surgeon at St George’s Hospital Henry Marsh delivered a 12-hour online war surgery course to hundreds of doctors in Ukraine on Saturday 5th March.

Taking our action one step further, we’ve turned our life-saving course into a condensed recording and are translating it into Ukrainian. Now, we are on a mission to share it with every healthcare professional in Ukraine.  

To reach as many doctors as possible, David has further condensed the Foundation’s surgical training into a 6-hour recording, divided into 15 chapters and packed full of surgical experience from the frontline. Chapters include triage, neurosurgery, damage control, burns, cardiothoracic, orthopaedics, paediatrics, plastic surgery and anaesthesiology.

The resource has already been shared with many doctors within Ukraine. One shared with us: “Perhaps hundreds of lives and destinies will be saved, thanks to your work. Thank you!”

Another healthcare professional within Ukraine, said: “David has gone through almost all the wars of the past 20 years and arguably has the most conflict medical experience in the world. He did this course for us.”

David Nott, our Co-Founder, said: “The emotions that healthcare professionals in Ukraine are feeling and the circumstances within which they are working – I’ve been there. I’ve worked in hospitals that have been hit by bombs. I’ve performed surgeries in the dark. I’ve been terrified for the lives of my patients. I can’t stop this war, but I can arm them with knowledge.

Condensing my war surgery experience into a recording that can be streamed from any device means any doctor within Ukraine can gain life-saving skills. All of us at the Foundation will continue to do all we can to help.”

More on our courses

War doctors should consider controlling blood loss with surgery and limiting blood transfusion

Trauma surgeons should consider surgically-controlling severe blood loss and limiting the amount of blood transfusion, according to a Lancet research letter by our Co-Founder David Nott and others. These findings are the results of preliminary research carried out by David in Syria in 2013, under austere conditions with limited blood stocks.

In 2013, the Syrian regime targeted hospitals and healthcare workers in Aleppo. David recorded the clinical outcomes of 57 war-injured patients undergoing surgery. Of 55 severely injured civilians, median age was 25 years and 17 (31%) were children.

Triage identified the people most in need of surgery, and immediate surgical control of the bleeding followed. All patients received whole blood after bleeding was surgically controlled. Every patient selected for surgery survived.

Although an extensive study in regulated hospital conditions is needed to validate the findings, this analysis suggests children and young adults with blast and penetrating war wounds, who are rushed to hospital and receive rapid surgical control of bleeding, are more likely to survive. For these patients, minimising all infusions, including blood, appeared to be safe, preserved scarce blood stocks and could even be considered clinically beneficial.

The most startling finding was that patients could survive major trauma with haemoglobin concentrations down to 4.8g/dL, with the majority between 5 and 7 g/dL.

Humanitarian war surgery is often characterised by poor conditions, resources and isolation. Transfusion supplies (and clinicians available to administrate blood) can be severely limited. Nott’s approach in Syria was borne from necessity, yet all patients selected for surgery lived.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is forcing hospitals underground and resources will soon become scarce. This observation of quick judgement, early surgical intervention, minimal whole blood transfusion and better-than-expected outcomes in Aleppo, should be considered by healthcare workers treating patients in Ukraine.

David Nott, our Co-Founder, said:

“Some of the conditions within which I’ve worked have been incomprehensible. But we trauma surgeons must do all we can to save lives, no matter the resources available.

In ideal circumstances blood stocks would be bountiful, but conflict strips hospitals of that luxury. This research suggests rapid surgical intervention to control blood loss, with limited blood transfusion, can lead to good outcomes. Although more research is needed, this insight could help surgeons in Ukraine save more lives.”

Read the Lancet letter

Two war doctors, one family

On day one of our HEST course in Erbil, Iraq, our Chief Executive Elly Nott had the pleasure of meeting two participants from Mosul. Together, Dr Basma Haqi Ismael and her daughter Shahad, a medical student from Mosul University, are delighted to learn surgical skills that will serve their community in times of need.

EN: I’m delighted to meet you both. Can you start by telling us who you are and where you’re based?

Dr Basma: I’m Dr Basma and I work with MSF. I am very grateful (to be here) because I help many people, especially people after war and disaster. Especially the people of Mosul post-war.

EN: And you must be very proud that your daughter is close to qualifying as a medical student.

Dr Basma: I am very proud of that… I always transfer what I see in MSF hospitals and give lots of information to her so she can get revision from that also.

EN: And is your mum an inspiration?

Shahad: She has always been an inspiration! I always wanted to be like her, in medicine, in life, in everything!

EN: That’s wonderful. And where are you training?

Shahad: I’m at Mosul University and training at Mosul Hospitals.

EN: There’s quite a lot of practical work on our HEST courses, are you looking forward to getting involved on our practical work here?

Shahad: Yes! I have found it was very nice to attend and gain some experience.

Dr Basma: This training will be very beneficial. The (course) information comes from many countries and can be beneficial and transferred to people inside Iraq - and other countries too.

EN: Absolutely, that’s the great thing about this course. It’s the accumulation of about 30 years of experience in various parts of Africa, the Middle East, Asia.

Dr Basma: Yes, emergency skills. I have experience of more than 20 years – but yesterday I was learning about lung twisting. It is for vascular thoracic surgery.

EN: The lung twist was a new skill?

Dr Basma: A new thing for us. We can transfer this information to our surgical department, for any blood loss or vascular injury. It’s very beneficial for the patient.

EN: So, you’ve already learned something new on day one of the HEST course?

Dr Basma: Yes, we’ve learned new information.

EN: And did you try the lung twist on our model Heston?

Dr Basma: Yes, very good. We also tried the open-heart cardiac massage. (We are) very grateful to do this training. For my daughter, transferring this information to hospitals, friends, medics, doctors – it’s beneficial for all.

Teaching model hestonDr Basma: At this time, I worked at Al-Jamhoori Teaching Hospital in Mosul. I help many people with MSF Belgium. Most of the people who come by have many deformities.

EN: With the injuries that you see. Are many of them the result of conflict?

Dr Basma: Yes, we’ve received many injured people from Mosul, but also many, many with psychological problems.

EN: Is there a particular patient that’s stayed with you?

Dr Basma: Most of the cases we receive are post-burn deformities, especially during ISIS. Explosions causing burns. Most of these patients are crying, saying I want to be saved. Always, I remember my daughter, and most of the time I am crying with the patient.

EN: I have two daughters, I can understand that. What are your hopes for the future?

Shahad: For me, I want to learn. In the future, all I want to be is a good doctor. I want to be like my mum! That’s all. She is doing very well in her career, and that’s all I want.

EN: That’s wonderful.

Dr Basma: We are so grateful (to be on this course). We want you to come to Mosul! We have heard very nice things about David – a great man. Many people pray for him.

More on our courses

We rapidly delivered war surgery training to 573 doctors in Ukraine

In response to the Ukrainian crisis, our Co-Founder David Nott and Former Consultant Surgeon at St George’s Hospital Henry Marsh joined forces to deliver a 12-hour surgical training course to over 570 healthcare professionals on Saturday 5th March.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, David Nott rapidly developed a surgical training course for doctors who are working, or will work, to save lives in Ukraine as the devastation continues to unfold.

David condensed our 5-day surgical training course into a comprehensive 12-hour course online. To ensure healthcare professionals in Ukraine are best prepared for complex war injuries, the course included triage, damage control, burns, cardiothoracic, orthopaedic, paediatric, and plastic surgery sessions. Former Consultant Surgeon and pioneer of surgical advances in Ukraine, Henry Marsh, led the neurosurgery session of the course.

The attendees learned a range of skills that can be used when faced with limited resources, from learning how to create make-shift pelvic binders to knowing when to operate without a CT scanner.

Vadim Corjos, a General Surgeon from Ukraine based in the UK, said:

"(The David Nott Foundation surgical training course) in essence is the fullest and deepest course for surgeons who are in war zones. Providing this course for (Ukrainian) surgeons gives a very good base to save more lives in war and conflict areas. I have no words to appreciate this great effort. Thank you and God bless."

David Nott OBE FRCS, Consultant Surgeon at St Mary's Hospital and our Co-Founder, said:

“At the frontline of conflict zones are medical teams working tirelessly in often under-resourced and ill-equipped hospitals. Many have never experienced traumatic war injuries.

When the crisis unfolded in Ukraine, we knew we had to spring into action and condense my 25 years of war surgery experience on the frontline into a 12-hour course for those in need.”

Henry Marsh CBE FRCS, Former Consultant Neurosurgeon at St George’s Hospital, said:

“I hope and pray that my Ukrainian friends and colleagues will not need to apply all that they learn from the David Nott Foundation webinar.

But we must do what we can to prepare them for the possible horrors ahead as Russia continues with its evil and murderous invasion.”

More on our courses

Thanks to Nick Southwell and Terry Hancock for providing technical support and advice on this course. 

Dr Rebekka Troller teaching course participants.

Dr Rebekka Troller, from student to war doctor trainer

Dr Rebekka Troller, Colorectal Robotic Fellow and Emergency and General Surgery Consultant at Medway Hospital NHS, is one of our talented trainers. Here Dr Troller shares her journey into humanitarian work and her transition from student to teacher.

From student to teacher

I first met David at St Mary’s Hospital in 2019. I was the Trauma Fellow there and, in all honesty, – I didn’t know who David was! When people found out he was the Trauma Consultant I’d be working with they thought I was very lucky. I was quite embarrassed that I didn’t know him, but maybe it’s helped us have such a comfortable working relationship today.

When discussing my career, I told him that working with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been my life-long ambition and is the reason I started studying medicine. It was also the main reason for me leaving Switzerland and coming to the UK, where I could work and train internationally. David was really encouraging, giving me guidance on how to enter the humanitarian field. To gain an insight into the work, he asked me to attend the Foundation’s upcoming STAE course.

It was one of the best surgical training courses I had ever experienced.

After taking part in the STAE course, I registered to work with MSF in 2019 and David asked if I’d consider being a trainer for the Foundation, teaching trauma surgical skills to war doctors in need.

Transitioning from someone who had experienced the course first-hand, to teaching, was really exciting. Being faculty at the Foundation and teaching multiple courses was also a great preparation for my work at MSF. In particular it helped me gain valuable skills for a mission in Cameroon, where I worked for two months as the only surgeon in a remote conflict area. In this situation I was really glad to know the techniques we teach at the courses, and it was reassuring to know that I can reach out to all my friends and mentors at the Foundation for advice, at all times.

Ever since I was little, I always knew humanitarian work was what I wanted to do. Seeing someone like David do what he does is a real inspiration and motivation for me.

He has always told me – if you want something, just go for it – this has always stuck with me.

Teaching war doctors for the first time

My first mission with the Foundation was in Yemen in 2020. I was teaching the cardiothoracic part of the course, helping the doctors perform thoracotomies or cardiac repairs at speed. I also supported the doctors throughout the course, as they learned other fields such as vascular or abdominal surgery.

I was very excited to be a part of the course. It was a small team, but a big adventure. It can be tense during travel through checkpoints, as we were never sure if we’d get through, but the team and our MSF partners were fantastic.

Yemen is also such a beautiful country. The mountains, scenery and people are beautiful - some even became friends. On the course, the 30 participants were very eager to learn. Many came with a lot of experience, but everyone learned something new - a technique they could improve or a surgery they’d never performed before.

Leaving a lasting legacy

The course is so important because we bring the training to them. For many doctors in conflict zones, even getting access to emails can be difficult, so bringing a course to their doorstep is so valuable. We want to reach every doctor who might be in need of new skills. Our aim is to leave them with knowledge they can share with their own colleagues or other people in their hospitals.

In some cases, we travel to dangerous regions because we want to empower local surgeons with life-saving knowledge. From speaking to participants, I know that the work of the Foundation is very much appreciated.

One participant told me they can feel forgotten, but by showing up we are saying: “We see you. We are thinking of you. You are not alone.”

Stories that stay with us

Being a faculty trainer means I get to meet very special individuals. Many war doctors live busy lives, working in under-resourced hospitals 24/7. I met surgeons from Syria who were working 10 hours away from their families, risking their lives on a daily basis. Despite these sorts of circumstances, the doctors are often very cheerful. They are grateful for life, which is incredibly humbling.

Now that we’ve entered 2022, the Foundation has big plans for surgical training courses this year. I can’t wait to get back on the road with the team – doing what I love.

More on our HEST courses

The DNF team and participants on our latest STAE course.

Another successful STAE course

This month, we were honoured to train 14 doctors from Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine and Ethiopia on our latest Surgical Training for Austere Environments (STAE) course. Over five days, the group participated in bespoke surgical workshops, specifically designed for treating traumatic – and often unique – injuries caused by war and catastrophe. 

Starting the week off in Brighton and Sussex Medical School, the participants practiced an extensive range of cardiothoracic procedures, such as fast and efficient thoracotomies (gaining access to the chest), heart repairs and how best to manage injuries to the lungs.

Aided by videos taken by our Co-Founder, David Nott, during overseas missions, the group also learned how to repair blood vessels – a vital skill for managing severe blood loss.

Equipped for every emergency

As the week progressed, every doctor was exposed to a different but equally vital field of medicine, from plastic surgery to orthopaedic trauma. This is key, as we know war and catastrophe can present patients with often varied and complex injuries.

In conflict for example, it is not uncommon for junior doctors to be the only healthcare workers left in hospitals. This means they need to step into a number of roles, from cardiothoracic surgeon one day to paediatric specialist the next.

New obstetric simulators

On the last day of training, the participants completed a range of obstetrics workshops in the beautiful new facilities of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London. Using our new simulators (pictured below), the group refined their C-section techniques and learned how to address emergency scenarios, such as breech births or neonatal resuscitation.

obstetric simulator


Listening and learning

We were honoured to be joined by doctors from Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan and Ethiopia, and each country is recovering from - or still facing – conflict. To ensure we continue to deliver the highest quality training and meet the needs of our doctors, we listen to participants’ experiences of their home countries.

Dr Naseebah Nayef left Syria in 2013. She shared with us: “(During the war) I treated Syrian protestors in my private practice. Post-that, my house was bombed, and I had to flee with my three children from Syria.  I am so very, very grateful for being a part of this course.”

More on our STAE courses