The Nottingham doctor who is nation building in Kurdistan

Nottingham Post 13/3/2012

The Nottingham doctor who is nation building in Kurdistan

Nottingham Post, Tuesday, 13/3/2012

Nearly 30 years ago, Professor Dlawer Ala'Aldeen was a young newly-qualified doctor working in northern Iraq. Saddam Hussein was at the height of his powers, harassing any opposition. This included Kurds in northern Iraq, who thought of themselves as their own nation – Kurdistan.

Saddam periodically launched attacks on his own people with gas and chemicals.

As the danger intensified, Del, as he is known to his friends, fled, becoming a refugee.

He headed on foot north east out of Iraq and across the steep hills and mountains which border north-western Iran.

Today, aged 51, he is professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Nottingham Medical School attached to the Queen's Medical Centre, where he specialises in research into meningitis and septicaemia.

But Del has another string to his bow. He is nation-building. He is back in Kurdistan as its minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Kurdistan Regional Government.

It is a far cry from his days in Iraqi Kurdistan growing up in its capital, Arbil, Iraq's fourth largest city.

Arriving in London, Del had to map out a new career for himself.

He specialised in infection at the London School of Hygieine and Tropical Medicine.

Del had read medicine at university in Baghdad and when he qualified, returned to Mosul then Arbil in the north, to practice as a junior doctor.

Del said: "I arrived in Britain in December 1984 as a refugee. "I had to learn some English and register with the General Medical Council. "I had to do some post graduate degrees. I did an MSc in tropical medicine and subsequently a PhD. "But I chose to become a clinical microbiologist – it comes under pathology – and became a Member of the Royal College of Pathologists. "That gave me the clinical qualification to become a consultant."

Del discovered he enjoyed research, the challenge of discovery. Armed with the qualifications and experience these gave him, he arrived in Nottingham in November 1994 to take up a clinical lectureship at the medical school attached to the University of Nottingham and the Queen's Medical Centre.

Four years later, he was appointed reader and consultant in clinical microbiology. "The route I took was not very classical, with seven or eight years of research and then back in to clinical life," said Del.

    • Making a difference: Professor Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, pictured with a trowel, in Kurdistan in his role as minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.