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UK's 'Indiana Jones of Medicine' David Nott trains Syria's doctors in life-saving war surgery

After he was dubbed the "Indiana Jones of Medicine" in the popular press, and the story of his extraordinary life was told on Desert Island Discs, I was expecting David Nott to be at least a little bit grand.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. He is a modest and unassuming man who works very hard to save people’s lives.

I met him in the basement of a hospital in southern Turkey, where he was teaching Syrian doctors about emergency surgery.

Dr David Nott demonstrating surgical techniques in front of a group of Syrian doctors. Credit: ITV News

They are medical professionals who are working in one of the most dangerous places on earth.

They have left the war zone to come and learn what they can from Dr Nott’s expertise. They will return to Syria once the three-day course is over.

“I think they’re amazing, I take my hat off to them really,” says Dr Nott. “They are worn out and exhausted, but still they come.”

The doctors have their own areas of expertise, but have not been trained in trauma surgery. Dr Nott is teaching them how to deal with patients who arrive in their hospitals with bullet wounds and blast injuries.

Syrian doctors learning trauma surgery techniques from Dr David Nott. Credit: ITV News

How to keep somebody alive, how to stabilise them, how to keep their heart beating and lungs breathing in the moments when they hover between life and death. The teacher calls it "damage control".

His students gather around an operating table where he uses sheep entrails to demonstrate his emergency surgery techniques. They hang on his every word.

“If I can learn just one thing from him, that might be the one thing that helps me to save someone’s life”, says one.

A man carries a child after an attack in Aleppo. Credit: PA Wire

Dr Nott has himself spent time working in Aleppo, as well as many more war zones across the world in the last 25 years, but it’s impossible for him to travel safely inside Syria anymore.

The levels of brutality reached in the war there are shocking for him.

“I’ve never been involved in a war where the worst possible munitions are used against civilians,” he says. “And that’s what’s happening now.”