The David Nott Foundation is helping surgeons save lives in Syria and beyond: here’s how you can help

Dr David Nott is a volunteer surgeon saving the lives of civilians caught up in conflicts from Sarajevo to Aleppo. His memoir War Doctor laid bare the horrifying realities of life on the frontline. If you've been inspired by David's story, here's how to help.

David Nott’s Sunday Times bestseller, War Doctor, is the extraordinary story of his time spent volunteering in war and disaster zones around the world for organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), and his efforts to train other doctors working in unbelievably challenging situations. In 2015, David and his wife Elly set up the David Nott Foundation to facilitate this training. If War Doctor has inspired you to help, or you’d just like to find out more about the foundation, here’s everything you need to know.

When wars, civil unrest and natural disasters occur, doctors and other medical professionals are often found at the frontline, helping victims and trying to preserve life. 

In countries where resources are scarce and access to equipment and training is limited, these doctors are left to face the most challenging of circumstances, ill-equipped and unsupported. 

The David Nott Foundation was established to change that. 

What is the David Nott Foundation? 

The David Nott Foundation is a humanitarian organisation with a simple mission: to save victims of conflict and natural disaster by better equipping the doctors who care for them. 

As a result of the training the foundation provides, doctors living and working in the most extreme environments will have the surgical skills, medical knowledge and self-confidence to make the right decisions for their patients.  

Travelling to the frontlines or bringing doctors to the UK for surgical training, the foundation is focused on improving the skills of the medical community worldwide. They believe that everyone deserves access to high-quality care from highly trained professionals, no matter where they live. 

Saving lives and limbs, one doctor at a time 

Since 2015, the foundation has provided twenty-seven training courses for 772 doctors in twelve countries around the world. Doctors like Dr Samah, the only female surgeon in Aden, and possibly the whole of Yemen. Dr Samah completed the foundation’s overseas training course in 2016, and has consistently impressed the team with her dedication and diligence. 

In 2019 Dr Samah was able to apply the skills she learned in her training with the foundation when a life-threatening situation arose while she was working in Yemen. She carried out an emergency procedure whereby an incision of the skin of a patient is made to create a clear airway in a technique that is only performed as a last resort when intubation is impossible. Her brave actions are a reminder of the many extraordinary women who’ve been on the frontline for years. 

I saved his life; it was great what I felt at that moment. It’s all thanks to Dr David and his foundation.
Dr Samah, reflecting on her experience on the frontline.

The David Nott Foundation is the only charity dedicated to training local doctors, and its overseas course is the only one to travel to the point of need. The foundation’s work makes an immediate impact on the ground, leaving a legacy of improved education and health for years to come. From Syria to Cameroon, from Yemen to Libya, the foundation has improved the lives of over 1.7 million patients.  

Dr Omar is an orthopaedic surgeon in Iraq who was trained by the foundation in 2018, and was able to put his training into practice when saving the life of a young patient who was involved in a road traffic accident. Using a procedure that he’d learnt to do correctly on the training course he saved the boy’s life, despite doctors being gravely concerned that he may not survive. 

I want people to know the real benefits of these training courses. The training helped me to do the procedure properly and without it the boy may not have lived.
Dr Omar

David Nott is one of the most renowned war surgeons in the world, and the medical faculty the foundation deploys have a wealth of humanitarian experience. Recognised for its excellence, and accredited by the Royal College of Surgeons, the training programme is at the cutting edge of medical advances, bringing surgical best practice to all corners of the world.   

Listen to a conversation between David and his wife Elly here:

How you can help

In 2020 the David Nott Foundation wants to amplify its reach by increasing the number of overseas training programmes that it delivers. On each course, 24–30 surgeons are taught lifesaving techniques at a cost of £1,000 per doctor.  The foundation will also deliver two UK-based courses for 28 surgeons from around the world at a cost of £5,000 per doctor. The progamme relies on donations and fundraising to provide this vital specialist training to doctors who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it. 

You can donate directly to the David Nott Foundation here.

Find out more about fundraising and other ways to support the David Nott Foundation here.

In War Doctor, his first book, David shares his story of working in some of the world’s most dangerous countries, from coming face to face with ISIS fighters to performing an operation on a small girl while the hospital was shelled around him.

War Doctor

by David Nott

Book cover for War Doctor

War Doctor is the extraordinary story of David Nott, the most experienced trauma surgeon in the world, and his experiences on the ground in some of the world’s most dangerous and volatile places - from Afghanistan to Congo and Haiti to Syria.