The PM's New Special Health Advisor Has Served In War Zones And Once Stitched Herself Up
This is Dr Jemilah Mahmood
For the uninitiated, Dr Jemilah graduated as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) from the National University of Malaysia (UKM) and went on to earn her Masters in Obstetrics & Gynaecology from the same university.
Highly experienced in the medical field, she has been involved directly in various humanitarian works locally and internationally such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the United Nations (UN), and the Humanitarian Response Branch at UNFPA.
Dr Jemilah is the founder of the Malaysian Medical Relief Society (MERCY Malaysia).
On Tuesday, 31 March, she was appointed as the Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Public Health
Her appointment has been noted as a "timely" one by Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham, who said that with Dr Jemilah's experience "we can make a big difference in healthcare in Malaysia".
While describing her appointment as a huge responsibility, Dr Jemilah said that she will do her very best to support all ministries, agencies, and organisations so that Malaysia will lead in healthcare.
"But first, let's tackle COVID-19 together," she tweeted yesterday.
In 2003, Dr Jemilah was shot in her hip when she and her team were on their way to deliver medical supplies to a children's hospital in Iraq.
And like a fighter, she sewed herself up and helped save others.
"I was shot through a friend, Dr Baba – he was more injured and he took the bullet for me," Dr Jemilah told Australia's Sydney Morning Herald in an exclusive interview back in 2017.
The bullet had gone through her friend and a thick book before hitting Dr Jemilah's hip. In pain and crying, she stitched herself up and got Dr Baba on the operating table.
During the self-surgery, she decided to leave the bullet inside her hip, as she wondered if she made a grave mistake dragging her team from MERCY Malaysia through a war-torn country.
"We had a white flag, everything was correct," she explained, stressing that they were shot despite the clear sign of the white flags of humanitarians on the ambulances they were travelling in.
Her heroism didn't stop there
Even before she could take a breather and digest the incident, she was pulled back to reality by news of an anaemic woman who was going into labour.
Dr Jemilah performed an emergency C-section and delivered a healthy baby boy, all within hours after being shot in the hip and losing part of her team.
However, the reality of the situation only sank in six hours later, when Dr Jemilah asked the woman who had just given birth why was she packing her things to return home.
"If the bombs drop on my home tonight, I want to be with my children," the woman said.
That's when it hit Dr Jemilah — it is people like this woman and the many humanitarians who have lost their lives trying to save other people who are the true heroes. She pointed out that calling her a hero is a disrespect to all those who have died in such situations.
"Why am I complaining about this bullet in my hip? We can't fight our destiny. There must be a reason why I am here? If I gave up, I wouldn't be doing justice to those who gave their lives."
It served as a realisation for her that humanitarians aren't protected from the brutalities of war.
Read more about what sparked Dr Jemilah's love and interest in being a humanitarian in this story we published back in 2017:
In 2019, she won the prestigious ASEAN Prize for her exceptional humanitarian and disaster relief work around the world:
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