What We Do

We aim to provide a space for dialogue, advocacy and analysis on issues important to the health of Syrians including current as well as future public health trends that have arisen from the Syrian crisis. We do this through i. Convening and curating closed meetings with representatives from donor agencies, United Nations and those working-on-the ground to address the challenges they face and possible policy responses ii. Hosting open meetings to highlight key health issues and humanitarian response issues iii. Producing and disseminating policy briefs, academic outputs and media editorials. Our next phase of development is to support the capacity building of the Syrian healthcare workforce (including education and training) within and outside of Syria.

Since our founding, we have convened several closed meetings in which we examine particular aspects of the humanitarian response in Syria and neighbouring frontline countries. These have included Syria’s health system; mental health and psychosocial prioritization; non-communicable diseases; and the informal employment of Syrian healthcare workers in neighbouring countries. Most recently we cohosted the second Syria research health conference.

The network engages with a variety of policy actors as advisors and experts on Syria and the humanitarian response; this includes the World Health Organization, European Union delegation to Syria, UN ESCWA, Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office, World Bank MENA, Medicine du Monde as well as academic institutions in the region and Europe.

Our Work

We promote the integration of Syrian public health professionals and healthcare workers into mainstream policy conversations and academic research pertaining to Syria, the humanitarian response and post conflict development and early recovery policies.

Our Priority Areas

Current work includes the education and training of Syrian healthcare workers; the experiences of Syrian refugee and diaspora healthcare workers in the region and in Europe particularly how healthcare workers can be integrated into host community labour markets.

Our Team


Chair and Co-chair

Diana Rayes

Diana Rayes is a PhD candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Department of International Health. Her research focuses on the impact of conflict and displacement on refugee mental health and integration in host country contexts, and particularly in high-income settings. View Profile.

Diana was formerly a Non-Resident Fellow with the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, focusing on public health trends and refugee issues in the MENA region, and has previous affiliations with the World Health Organization, the Syrian American Medical Society, the Lancet Commission on Syria working on the humanitarian response in Syria. She holds an MHS in Public Mental Health and a certificate in Humanitarian Assistance from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and a BS in Psychology from Arizona State University.


Dr Abdulkarim Ekzayez

Dr Abdulkarim is a Syrian medical doctor and an epidemiologist. Currently his work at King’s College focuses on health system strengthening in northern Syria and on building the capacity to research health in conflict in the middle east. View Profile.

He is also involved in several other projects and research with other academic and policy institutes including LSHTM, AUB, Chatham House and others. His research focuses on the public health impacts of conflict, as well as challenges around the protection of healthcare in conflict, both issues he has experienced first-hand in Syria.

In 2013, Karim was training to be a neurosurgeon when his residency was interrupted by the war. He joined Save the Children in North West Syria, where he led the health response until 2017. Also, he was part of supporting the rebuilding of the health system in opposition controlled areas in Syria using a bottom up approach.

Dr Abdulkarim is a trustee member of two NGOs, Shafak and Refugee Trauma Initiative. He is a board member of the Home Revival Initiative. He is also the managing director of the Syrian British Council.

He received his MD from Aleppo University and his MSc from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Also, he completed a one-year residential fellowship on leadership in international affairs from The Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership in International Affairs at Chatham House; and another one-year fellowship in international cultural relations from the Institute for International Cultural Relations at The University of Edinburgh.


Steering Committee

Dr Aula Abbara

Dr Aula Abbara MBBS MD(Res) DTMH is a consultant in Infectious Diseases/ General Internal Medicine at Imperial College NHS Healthcare Trust, London and an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial College. She teaches and supervises students on the Global Health BSc and MPH at Imperial College. View Profile.

She has volunteered in different humanitarian and refugee settings including direct clinical work, teaching healthcare workers and building capacity. Since 2012, this has been predominantly with Syrian non-governmental organisations. Between 2016 and 2018, she led a project for SAMS Hellas which provided over 30,000 primary healthcare consultations for refugees in Greece and received a Women in Global Health Award at the World Health Assembly for this. Other humanitarian work includes refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria (pre-conflict), the Rohingya crisis and in Sierra Leone with MDM for the ebola response in 2015 (for which she received an Ebola Medal of Service.)

Her research interests include attacks on healthcare, AMR in conflict, refugee healthcare workers and, more broadly relating to global and humanitarian health. Current research projects include an MRC grant on Health Systems Research on health system governance in Syria, an R2HC grant on the Public Health impact of Attacks on Healthcare and a collaboration on AMR in conflict.


Dr Fouad Fouad

Dr Fouad M. Fouad is an Associate Professor of Public Health Practice at the Faculty of Health and Sciences at AUB and Co-Director of the Refugee Health Program at Global Health Institute. His current research focuses on the forced displaced population with a special interest in the Syrian refugee crisis, as well as the impact of this crisis on the health and the well-being of the Syrian population. View Profile

Fouad has extensive research work on health workforces in humanitarian settings and the weaponization of healthcare in armed conflicts.

Dr. Fouad is also Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator on several projects related to health in protracted and armed conflicts. He served as a commissioner in two Lancet Commissions: the AUB-Lancet Commission on Syria and the crises in global governance, health, and aid and the UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health. Dr. Fouad is the author of more than 70 articles, Op-eds, and reports published in top journals including the Lancet, PloS, BMJ, Conflict and Health, Social Science & Medicine.


Dr Munzer Alkhalil

Dr. Munzer Alkhalil is a researcher at Research for Health System Strengthening in North West of Syria Project / 2021- 2022. He has worked as General Manager at Idlib Health Directorate from 2013 until 2020. In addition, he has worked as an orthopedist and manager of many Hospitals in Idlib province between 2011-2015.

He was a member of the Medical Board of Idlib province in 2012. Also, he was the head of the Medical Office in Idlib province in 2011. In 2008 and 2009, he was the head of the voluntary medical camps in Syria. From 2006 to 2007, Alkhalil was the head of the administrative body of the faculty of medicine at Aleppo University.

He is a co-founder of the first field hospital in Syria in 2011, Alamal hospital for orthopaedic surgery, Idlib Health Directorate, and many central health projects such as forensic medicine, drugs control, referral system, health information system and the health coordination body.

He holds a university degree in human medicine from Aleppo University in 2007. And he had a certificate of specialization in orthopaedics from the Syrian Board of Medical Specialties in 2017. He also holds an MSc Health Policy, Planning and Financing certificate from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and London School of Economics and Political Science. In addition, he had many diplomas in hospital management, health governance, health systems through crisis and recovery, and strategic planning from many universities.

Dr Munzer had several activities on society empowerment, building the local councils, documenting the use of chemical weapons in Syria, advocacy campaigns to stop attacking health facilities and personnel, and working with the Arab Observer Delegation to Syria to implement the plan of resolving the Syrian crisis and providing protection for civilians in 2011.

Dr Houssam Alnahhas

Dr Houssam Alnahhas started his medical studies at Aleppo University’s Faculty of Medicine in 2006 but transferred to Istanbul University in 2015, where he received his medical degree. The recipient of the joint MPH Syrian Scholarship and Sommer Scholar Award from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. View Profile.

He has Over eight years of experience in the field of humanitarian health, and he is a public health researcher with strong skill sets on information management and focus towards studying health systems in conflicts. Extensive experience with data collection, data analysis, and program implementation. Fluent in Arabic, English, and Turkish. He supported many types of research related to public and global health and his work in this area has appeared in the European Journal of Public Health, JAMA Surgery, Diabetes & Metabolism and Annals of Global Health. He also joined FXB Center for Health and Human Rights as a research collaborator to support the data and information needs of the Lancet-AUB Commission on Syria and to support the technical work related to the development of platform prototypes for a Burden of War analysis.”


Dr Naser Almhawish

Dr. Naser Almhawish is a medical doctor with extensive experience in the Epidemiological Surveillance system. Currently, he is a Surveillance Consultant supporting programs functioning in north Syria. 

In 2016, he established the acute respiratory illness surveillance for EWARN, which later developed to be a COVID-19 surveillance system. In addition, he is an active member in the health cluster and cholera task force. In addition, he successfully developed an enhancement measure for AFP surveillance and other VPDs contextualized to conflict setting and per the global standards. In 2017, he led the surveillance team which detected a vaccine-derived poliovirus outbreak in the north of Syria. In 2015, he worked as a surveillance officer with EWARN focusing on Acute Flaccid Paralysis surveillance. Dr. Naser is a member of multiple task forces including Surveillance Outbreak Preparedness and Response (SOPR) chaired by WHO. Before 2015, he had extensive field experience as a surgeon in different hospitals on the Syrian-Turkish borders helping establish and run those facilities. Naser holds a MSc in Public Health and a bachelor’s degree in medicine from the University of Aleppo (2006). In addition, he has a post-graduate certificate in surgical studies in (2012).

Dr Mohamed Katoub

Dr Katoub is an advocacy and communication expert whose experience focuses on humanitarian policy, protection of aid workers in Syria and neighboring countries. 

During his work for humanitarian and human rights organizations, Mohamad focused his work on documenting attacks on health and fighting impunity for the usage of chemical weapons. 

He is a licensed dentist, and a former relief worker, having worked to establish field hospitals, and support decaying local governance structures since the Syria conflict.

SPHN Fellows

Kinan Wihba

 Kinan is a Syrian refugee and medical student at Imperial College School of Medicine, London. He holds an iBSc (Hons) in Medical Sciences and Global Health from the Imperial College School of Public Health, London.

He has conducted multiple qualitative research projects into the experiences of Syrian migrant and refugee doctors in the UK healthcare workforce, and into the experiences of refugee and polylingual medical students with medical education in the UK. Kinan aspires to expand his experience into research in conflict settings broadly and Syria specifically.

SPHN Research and Policy Fellows (2023)

Alaa Al-Shemali

Alaa is a final year medical student at the Free Aleppo University in North West Syria. Alongside her training, she has developed qualitative and quantitative research skills through volunteering with SAMS (Syrian American Medical Society) on a project exploring breast cancer access and care in northwest Syria.

Dr Hussam Al-kabbani

Dr Al-kabbani is a medical doctor. He has 10 years of experience working with NGOs on health and nutrition programming in the Syrian context. Currently, he is pursuing his Master's in Public Health for Development at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He is undertaking a qualitative research project on AMR in northwest Syria.

Dr Ahmad Habboush

Dr Habboush is a Syrian-Turkish dentist and public servant, who is dedicated to the public and non-profit sectors. He is a Chevening Scholar and a Master’s degree holder in Public Management (with a specific focus on health and social care) from the University of Birmingham (2022). 

In his recent career roles, he has had a strong interest in research, local communities’ empowerment and community-based interventions to enhance health equity in armed conflict settings. He aspires to continue  to contribute to health system strengthening in fragile contexts through evidence-based interventions and policy-making.

Dr Ahmad Hmeideh

Dr Ahmad Hmaideh is an internal medicine resident supported by SBOMS (Syrian Board of Medical Specialities) in northwest Syria. 

He is actively interested in research and has co-authored a paper on the ‘Timing of surgery following SARS-CoV-2 infection: an international prospective cohort study’ and a clinical-epidemiological analysis of cholera cases at a center in northwest Syria which he presented at Emergency Environmental Health Forum in May 2023. He is interested in research which supports the health system in north west Syria through scientific research which focuses on outbreaks.

Senior Advisors

Dr Adam Coutts

Dr Adam Coutts is a Research Associate in the Department of Sociology and a Senior Research Fellow at Magdalene College, University of Cambridge. He is a cofounder of SPHN. View Profile.

Professor Richard Sullivan

Professor Richard Sullivan's research group studies health systems, particular NCD policy and the impact of conflict on health. He is Professor of Cancer and Global Health at King’s College London, and Director of the Institute of Cancer Policy (ICP) and co-Director of the Conflict and Health Research Group. View profile.

Dawn Chatty

Dawn Chatty

Dawn Chatty, is Emeritus Professor in Anthropology and Forced Migration and former Director of the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.   She is also Fellow of the British Academy. Her research interests include coping strategies and resilience of refugee youth; tribes and tribalism; nomadic pastoralism and conservation; gender and development; health, illness, and culture.

She has worked with nomadic pastoral groups in Lebanon and Syria since the mid-1970s and extended her research to Oman in 1979. She has continued to be engaged with these communities and advocate for their rights to resist forced settlement. Since 1998 she has worked with refugee youth in situations of prolonged armed conflict in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, Algeria ( with Sahrawi refugees)   and Iran ( Afghan Hazaras). She has edited numerous books including: Deterritorialized Youth:  Sahrawi and Afghan Refugees at the Margins of the Middle East, Berghahn Books, 2010; Nomadic Societies in the Middle East and North Africa: Facing the 21st Century, Leiden, Brill, 2006; Children of Palestine: Experiencing Forced Migration in the Middle East, Berghahn Books, 2005; and Conservation and Mobile Peoples: Displacement, Forced Settlement and Sustainable Development Berghahn Press, 2002.  She is the author of Displacement and Dispossession in the Modern Middle East Cambridge University Press, 2010, From Camel to Truck, White Horse Press, 2013, and Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State, Hurst Publishers, 2018.


Dr Ihlas Altinci

Ihlas Altinci (Ikhlas Fattal), a family physician from Syria and a mother of four children. She graduated from the faculty of General Medicine and Pharmacy of Timisoara, Romania in 1996. In 2002, she finished her master’s degree in family medicine from Damascus University, Syria.  As a master’s student, she did research about violence against women, which was the first research ever done in Syria about this sensitive subject.

While in Syria, she worked at her own clinic as a family doctor for almost 10 years, and in 2013 she had to move to Turkey together with her family. Since then, she has been remotely managing health, nutrition, and sexual and reproductive health programs and projects inside Syria working for different international organizations like World Vision and Relief International. Currently, she is working for CARE International as the Sexual and Reproductive Health Technical Advisor since January 2019, and has been leading the strategic direction and providing technical oversight to CARE’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) programming in NW Syria with a special focus on meeting the needs of crisis-affected adolescents. She is also involved in several regional and global initiatives to advance SRHR through programming and advocacy.

former SPHN Fellows

Manar Marzouk

Manar Marzouk is a Research Associate at the National University of Singapore focusing on health policy and health systems in displacement settings as well as a member of the COVID-19 International Modelling Consortium (CoMo) at the University of Oxford.

She has over 7 years of field experience in the humanitarian sector in Syria and the UK. She holds an MSc in International Health and Tropical Medicine from the University of Oxford, and a bachelor's degree in Pharmacy from the University of Damascus.

Sara Basha

Dr Sara Basha

Sara is a recently graduated Syrian-Scottish junior doctor with a masters in Global Health and Management at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. She has undertaken research on maternal health in Syria and Syria's primary healthcare system. She plans to pursue a career in the humanitarian field relating to Syria.

Samia Deghastani

Samia is currently a medical student at Baylor College of Medicine. She has an undergraduate degree from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Her upbringing along the US-Mexico border paired with her Syrian background has directed her towards a career in which she hopes to serve populations affected by violence and conflict around the world.