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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

UAE

Dubai student aims to raise Dh1.83m for US baby clinic

Syrian Marwan Masri hopes to raise $100,000 a year from benevolent health centres across the UAE

UCLA medical student Marwan Masri, 18, hopes to raise $100,000 a year for the next five years in aid of a Los Angeles hospital which wants to expand its neonatal services. Chris Whiteoak / The National

While most university undergraduates are worried about saving every dirham for their years of study, Dubai-born medical student Marwan Masri is a little different.

Marwan, 18, a trainee at UCLA, has set himself the ambitious target of raising $500,000 (Dh1.83 million) in the next five years to improve the facilities at a medical centre where he volunteers.

The Syrian native is following in the footsteps of his father, Dr Gehad Al Masri, who runs a clinic in Dubai.

During his university studies, Marwan volunteered his services to the 377-bed Providence Holy Cross Medical Centre, a hospital in the Mission Hills district of Los Angeles.

He says: “When I went along I was surprised about the facilities there as there was clearly a modest budget, so I wanted to help.”

“I talked to the hospital officials about what areas needed improving, and they said the premature baby care unit needed support.

“The hospital only has 16 beds for mothers and babies so they have to separate them at the moment. That is heartbreaking, so the hospital wants to expand that area.”

Despite its other excellent services, the hospital has launched a campaign to raise $6.4m to ­expand this unit.

Marwan hopes to help the Little Miracles Initiative by giving it $100,000 a year in donations from the medical community in Dubai and across the UAE.

In the meantime he is volunteering at the hospital to gain experience in a variety of areas, such as the trauma ward.

“I spoke with my dad about it and he was supportive of the idea, and he gave me some contacts in Dubai to help me with fund-raising,” Marwan said.

“The doctors and clinics I’ve approached so far have been keen to get involved. The PHC hospital has helped me with all the information to give to clinics to show what they need to do and that it is a genuine appeal.”

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America can be an expensive country in which to give birth, and when babies arrive earlier than expected, mother and child can suffer serious health complications.

Fair Health, an independent database for privately billed ­insurance claims said the average charge for a natural birth was $12,290. A Caesarean section costs $16,907.

Complications in premature births can result in considerably more expense. These are usually covered by insurance but not all families have the cover to pay the costs.

Babies born at 23 weeks can weigh as little as 500 grams. They also need the support of sophisticated technology and round-the-clock care from specialist physicians and nurses.

“When I told the medical chief I was hoping to raise $500,000 for the unit, he was very happy,” Marwan said. “All the doctors I’ve spoken with have been open to the idea and have wanted to donate as much as they could.”

The hospital wants to double the size of its neonatal ­intensive care unit, modernise equipment by increasing capacity from 12 incubators to 18 and provide 24-hour care for parents.

Providence Holy Cross is the only hospital offering neonatal intensive care in the area.

“The few alternatives are many miles away and the distance can be daunting for frightened parents,” a hospital spokeswoman said. “Unfortunately, we are at full capacity almost all of the time.”

It is not the first time Marwan has revealed his benevolent side. After years of saving his pocket money and gifts to buy a car, in 2015 he decided to donate to a fund helping typhoon-hit communities in the Philippines.

He raised Dh75,000 to help employees who worked at his father’s medical centre, many of whom had lost their homes.

“The stories I was hearing of their families were touching, so I wanted to help by donating my savings to build some shelters,” Marwan said.

“I was going to by a car but it was more important to rebuild their community. That inspired me to help out with this medical centre in California, as I know how generous people can be.”

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