Niagara Gazette

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October 9, 2012

FRIENDS INDEED: Doc returns from war-torn Syria with a little help from his friends

Niagara Gazette — The wedding celebration should have had a happy ending. Instead, the day ended in horror when a guest was killed afterthe car she was riding in was shot at by an unknown gunman and she became another victim of the civil war raging in Syria.

Dr. Faraj Touchan was driving that care home from the wedding with his sister and her friend when the woman was killed by gunfire on the streets of his hometown, Aleppo.

Touchan, in Syria waiting for a visa to return to his new job at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston, was  caught in the midst of a bloody uprising in his country. According to Associated Press reports nearly 30,000 people have been killed in the civil war that began there 18 months ago. Aleppo is one of the hotbeds of the battles.

The doctor had been waiting an unusually long time for the Amerian Embassy to approve a visa to return to the U.S. where he had trained at Sisters Hospital in Buffalo. It had almost been a year since he was offered the position at Mount St. Mary’s new Center for Women. And while he waited, working when he could, the war had spread throughout his home town. It was becoming too dangerous to do much more than grab necessities early in the day at the closest supermarket. 

He had pretty much given up hope of ever getting his visa approved, a process that typically takes about a week. But, behind the scenes at Mount St. Mary’s, the administrators who hired him had begun an unusual campaign to get their doctor back. They contacted every government official they could think of to speed the visa process. In his regular emails and phone calls to the hospital, he kept administrators updated. 

“We felt terrible about what he was going through,” said Adele Berti, physician relations and recruitment director at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital.  “I could actually hear the bombings during a couple of phone calls.”

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