There With You: Doctor quits Queen Mary’s medical school to help east London NHS fight coronavirus

Dt Talhah Atcha taking a break at Queen Mary University's Mile End campus next to the Grand Union ca

Dt Talhah Atcha taking a break at Queen Mary University's Mile End campus next to the Grand Union canal... "Resigning was not an easy decision, but was the right one." Picture: QMSU - Credit: QMSU

A postgraduate doctor studying for his Masters at Queen Mary University has quit his role as Students’ Union president to return to the NHS in the frontline battle against coronavirus.

It was “not an easy decision” for Dr Talhah Atcha, but he said it was the right one to leave the Whitechapel medical campus to offer support to the health service.

Dr Atcha has gone to work for Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the Royal London and Newham hospitals, with the possibility of working at the massive Nightingale emergency hospital set up at the ExCeL centre in the Royal Docks if required.

“Resigning was not an easy decision to make,” he says in his resignation letter. “But it was definitely the right one.

“I have skills in A&E, ITU and microbiology and in good conscience couldn’t (avoid putting) these skills to good use when so many people are dying from such a horrible disease.”

His decision has brought admiration from colleagues for his “bravery” joining the NHS front line.

Students’ Union chief executive Mike Wojcik said: “Many people talk about values, integrity and social purpose, but it takes great courage and conviction to step away from the role he was so passionate about, to do as he has with his sense of public duty to serve the communities in the front line NHS.”

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Dr Atcha got his degree in medicine at Queen Mary’s in 2016, then worked as a doctor for two years before returning to study for his Masters in global health, during which time he was elected Students’ Union president.

He had doubts about quitting his work restructuring the students’ union to make it more democratic and student led, revealing in his letter: “I feel like I’m abandoning all of you, with the effect the virus has had on the students’ union. I really should be leading the board — and that is also a hard fact to deal with.”

But he urges students to grasp the opportunity, like him, to help the community during the pandemic crisis.

“Grasp it and help shine a light in the dark when it comes along,” Dr Atcha adds. “Help make other people’s lives even the slightest bit better if you have the capacity for it. A lot of people could do with it right now.”

Dr Atcha’s university responsibilities are now being shared out among the student union’s executive until the deputy president takes up the role in August.