One Syrian refugee’s journey: ten years, four countries, four schools, 21 houses and now a physician of the year

A Syrian refugee who travelled across the Middle East to England to complete his medical degree has spoken of his pride after being recognised as one of Medscape’s physicians of the year.

After ten years, four countries, four schools and 21 houses, Dr Tirej Brimo finally graduated in August with his medical degree from St George’s University of London.

At the end of July in 2012 and only ten months away from graduating, Tirej Brimo, 27, was forced to flee Aleppo with his mother and sister, 33. His brother, 36, was already living in the U.K.

Speaking about his journey to safety, Dr Brimo said: “My family has always been there for me.

“Leaving Syria is a decision between life and death.

“You forget everything you once wanted and dreamed about and you go back to your innate human mode, where the safety of your loved ones is what matters the most.”

Using buses, trains and planes he travelled across the Middle East, living in Lebanon for a month before moving on to Egypt for a year.

With the political situation there becoming steadily more unstable, Dr Brimo left Egypt, arriving in the UK in 2013.

He said: “What makes it special is it’s not a one-man journey.

“I met some wonderful people along the way and in the UK.

“It’s many, many people I met along the way at different stages of the journey with endless love and kind of support and that made the journey possible.”

Once arrived in this country, he applied to every university he could and was finally accepted by St George’s.

He said: “St George’s, regardless who you are and what your background is, you will always be looked after.”

Dr Brimo spent hours and hours working extremely hard to improve and expand his English, having initially known only the basics.

Recalling what it was like for refugees fleeing Syria he explained:

“In the same way a glass plate would shatter and it’s broken pieces would spread everywhere when forcefully thrown on the floor, sadly, this is how Syrians spread everywhere after the war.”

“Once I accepted my losses it was the most liberating, self-empowering moment in my life.”

In recognition of his continued triumph over adversity, Dr Brimo was one of 13 professionals listed by the prestigious global medical website Medscape in December as physicians of the year 2017.

Dr Brimo said: “It’s an absolute privilege and great honour.”

A spokesperson for St George’s University of London said: “We are incredibly proud.”

Dr Brimo started his two year medic foundation in August, working at County Hospital in Stafford, for the first term and is now at Royal Stoke University Hospital.

He hopes to specialise in trauma surgery in the future.

Philippa Tostevin, course director for medicine St George’s, interviewed Dr Brimo in 2014.

She said: “At the interview I felt he was a sincere and intelligent young man who was determined to continue his medical education against incredible odds.

“We were all delighted to see him graduate this year.”

Dr Tostevin said he had an exemplary academic track record from school in Syria.

He was given an academic scholarship to medical school in Syria and left school with outstanding grades.

Dr Brimo said: “There are moments when I sit and think about all the changes and I think wow, what a journey.”

Dr Brimo would like to thank his family who sacrificed a lot and his friends who supported him throughout everything. He is grateful to his university who loved and believed in him and to all the wonderful people who looked at him in the eye and understood his pain.

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