On June 13th a guy died who you may never have heard of, but he is an inspiration to anyone who wants to make a better life for themselves and help others. He is an inspiration to me, there's no question about that.
Ghassan Salem Hanna was born into a Palestinian Christian family in Nablus on October 19 1949, one of 11 children of a primary school headmaster. Aged seven, Ghassan asked his father what were his chances of becoming Pope, to be told "zero"; he decided that if he could not heal with prayer, he would become a doctor. He was 17 and still at school when the Six-Day war broke out; and one night, after a friend had been shot and killed, Ghassan left his home with no money and only the clothes he stood up in. His aim was to enrol at the medical school in Cairo.
He crossed the river Jordan and made his way to Amman, where he was taken in by one of his aunts. Because of the war, however, he had been unable to sit his exam in physics (his strongest subject), and when his results were published his overall mark was not sufficient to get him into the Cairo medical school.
He was offered the chance to study engineering at Baghdad University, and was about to take it up when he received a telegram saying that he had been accepted by Alexandria Medical School. From there, he was able to transfer to the school in Cairo, where he eventually qualified.
Hanna first practised in Dubai, where he developed his interest in Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgery. His original desire was to work among his own people; but when he returned home to what was now occupied territory, he discovered that he was not included in the Israeli census and was no longer considered a Palestinian citizen. He decided to make his career in Britain, arriving in 1980.
In 1988 Hanna took up the position of consultant surgeon in ENT at the General Hospital (later the County Hospital) at Hereford, where he remained for the next 20 years.
As the senior ENT surgeon, and the lead head and neck cancer specialist for Hereford, he was well-liked and respected by medical students and junior doctors, and always much enjoyed his role in training them; he also fought hard to provide the best possible care for his patients.
Hanna retired from the NHS in 2007, but continued to see patients privately until the time of his death. He and his family lived at the village of Clehonger, near Hereford, where he created a beautiful garden and took delight in his proficiency at Middle Eastern cuisine.
Ghassan Hanna died from a heart attack on June 13 as he and his wife were preparing for their joint sixtieth and fiftieth birthday party. He married, in 1976, Wafa Nemer Bishara, whose family was also from Nablus.
Their son is a communications manager at Barnet and Chase Farm hospitals, north London, and all three of their daughters are doctors.