Humber instructors battle suffering in Syria

Humber instructors battle suffering in Syria

Doctor, paramedic travel to war zone to teach in field hospitals
Dr. Jay Dahman and Mark Cameron in Aleppo

For Canadians Jay Dahman and Mark Cameron, teaching emergency field medicine in the heart of the ongoing Syrian conflict mostly involved dealing with the aftermaths of gun battles, mortar shell explosions and gas attacks.

They’ve taught pharmacists how to tie tourniquets.

They’ve taught doctors how to stop bleeding by inserting a needle directly into a bone.

They’ve taught teenage volunteer nurses how  to open a choked airway.

Then the winter hit – the worst in Syria in more than 20 years – and all of a sudden, gunshot wounds weren’t the only thing they had to worry about.

“Imagine facing winter in bare feet and only a single layer of clothing,” says Dahman, a physician who, along with Cameron, a paramedic, has been travelling to Syria to provide medical training for almost two years. “This is the situation in Syria now – and people, especially children, are dying because of it.”

Dahman and Cameron have now launched an intensive campaign called Coats from Canada to help stem the tide of cold-related deaths in Syria’s hardest-hit areas. Through their NGO, the Canadian International Medical Relief Organization (CIMRO), the two are collecting warm clothing and cash donations, which will then be distributed through their network of contacts in Syria and neighbouring Turkey.

“We’re doing our best to work as fast as possible, because the need is immediate,” explains Cameron, who graduated from Humber’s paramedic program in 1987 and now lives in Peterborough. “People are desperate, so we have friends who are already in the area standing by, ready to buy coats and give them to those in need within 24 hours of a monetary donation being made. We’re also trying to find ways to ship clothing donations quickly and inexpensively.”

Cameron and Dahman, who co-direct the Sunnybrook-Humber Pediatric Advanced Life Support course, say that CIMRO’s  mission is strictly humanitarian, with no political affiliation to either side of the bitter conflict.

“Ninety-five per cent of the people we treat are civilians caught in the cross-fire, but we work with  anyone who needs attention,” says Cameron. “No one takes sides when they’re treating patients, regardless of what their politics are.”

For Dahman, whose parents are Syrian, travelling back and forth to the conflict zone is hard, but rewarding.

“Saving a life is an incredibly rewarding feeling – and that helps you keep going, keep trying to make a difference,” he says. “Talk is cheap when people are dying – so we put our boots on the ground to help people who are suffering. Now we’re asking for help to make that possible.”  

To find out more about CIMRO, go to their Facebook page. To make a monetary donation, follow the link to PayPal.

Image: Dr. Jay Dahman (left) and paramedic Mark Cameron on the remains of a tank

Topic Tags

Related Articles

Upcoming Events


A League of Her Own -- Charity slo-pitch tournament

Come play slo-pitch and support Humber College and Plan Canada's Because I Am A Girl program. This event is organized by Humber event management...
Coronation Park
711 Lakeshore Blvd. W
Toronto, ON M5V 3T7
12:00pm to 2:00pm

Travel Trade Show

Find out about the study abroad experience first-hand from Humber students in the School of Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism. Check out...
205 Humber College Blvd
North Campus Concourse
Toronto, ON M9W 5L7

Escape Hunger -- fundraiser for the Ontario Association of Food Banks and the Humber Scholarship Fund

Presented by Humber Event Management students, this interactive event combines the challenge of an escape room with the fun of a party, silent...
CSI Centre for Social Innovation
720 Bathurst St.
Toronto, ON M5S 2R4