David Nott could be considered an incredible man by many simply by way of the fact that he is doctor. That he has dedicated his life to the vocation of saving others. His stock rises further when one considers that for the past 10 years of his life he has committed to six weeks of unpaid leave a year to perform humanitarian work. He has put his skills at the service of such organizations as Medicins Sans Frontiers and the International Committee of the Red Cross, performing surgery in places where humanitarian crises have arisen across the globe including in Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone, Sudan and Chad.
Mr. Nott has been referred to as the “Indiana Jones of surgery” for his bravery, commitment, and consummate skill in performing surgery in many of the most dangerous and least well-equipped places on the globe. These qualities are aptly demonstrated by the story of how, in 2008 whilst working a 24-hour shift in the DRC, Mr. Nott had to perform a life-saving shoulder amputation on a boy whose arm had been ripped off by an incendiary device and had become badly infected. Having never performed such an operation, and working with limited resources, he took instructions on how to perform the procedure by way of a constant stream of text messages from a colleague at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital. The operation was a success and the child survived.
Much of Mr. Nott’s recent work has taken place in Syria. As the crisis there continues to escalate and much of the attention moves away from its human elements towards a focus on the diplomatic, symbolic and power-political implications of any military action on the country, it is easy to forget that there are still many hundreds of people and organizations selflessly working to improve, in some small way, the human conditions of the country. Just as many who have familial and patriotic ties to Syria have gone there to join the FSA and help fight President Assad, so too have many British doctors with similar ties, who wish to help their people, gone to work for NGOs, helping at overwhelmed local and field hospitals.
In light of this increased commitment to work in war-zones, as well as a growing desire by those who remain in the UK to work in such areas, Mr. Nott has developed the first ever specialist training course to provide emergency medical interventions in disaster and conflict zones. The intensive one-week course provides participants with the skills to perform medical procedures with minimal equipment and support. Disaster scenarios are simulated, working on cadavers, that allow doctors to learn and refine such skills as how to save a person who is bleeding out by the arm or who has suffered multiple abdominal gunshot wounds. Being taught or seeing these things just once, according to Mr. Nott, allows for greater confidence and success in performing these procedures for real. Already, more than a thousand NHS doctors have signed up to these courses.
Mr. Nott is a prime example of a person who lives by the following mantra and proves to us all that no matter who we are, successful or not, we can always strive to be better:
“If you can at all avoid it, don’t be normal. Strive, burn and do everything you can to avoid being the industry standard. Even the highest industry standard. Be greater than anything anyone else has ever dreamed of you. Don’t settle for pats on the back, salary increases, a nod-and-a-smile. Instead, rage against the tepidness of the mundane with every fibre of whatever makes you, you. Change this place.”