ABURY meets Surgeon Dr. Raiss

Portraid of Moroccan surgeon and PortrAid supporter Dr. Raiss
© Thomas Rusch

“The first thing every patient sees after this surgery is him, the doctor: Abderrahmane Raiss, a handsome, fifty-year-old man, boxer with a gentle smile on his face. Dr. Raiss is a man with two lives.”

Fiona Ehlers / DER SPIEGEL

Dr. Raiss is an ophthalmic doctor from Morocco. He has a clinic in Casablanca, which patients from all over the country seek to get treated. Due to the fact that not all people can afford to travel to the clinic and to be treated by Dr. Raiss, he travels with his organisation Albassar across the country twice a year with a medical caravan to treat those suffering from ophthalmic diseases and unable to afford a treatment.

Dr. Raiss is also the surgeon that treats cataract patients that are involved in the first series “I see you see” of the PortrAid initiative. This is an art aided charity project that was started by the ABURY Foundation and photographer Thomas Rusch. The idea of PortrAid is to sell portraits of Moroccans that suffer from cataract and use the money to finance the operation. This is where Dr. Raiss comes to play.

PortrAid Team, Thomas Rusch, Andrea Bury, Dr. Raiss
The PortrAid Team

We had the pleasure to interview Dr. Raiss, an amazing man with a big heart and the courage and love to care for people in need:

Dr. Raiss, please start by describing yourself with three words. 

Ophthalmic surgeon, 52 years old, passionate about my job and president of Albassar 

We believe that “hands tell stories“. What do your hands tell about you?

My hands are a blessing from God. They are precious and allow me to make my dreams come true. That being said, in my profession, to be a good surgeon, you need to operate with your head and not your hands!

Surgeon Dr. Raiss treating a patient with cataract in Morocco
© Ilyas Triba + Thomas Rusch
Being a doctor you use your hands a lot. What is the last thing you created with your hands that was not related to your job as a doctor?

If you mean my latest project, by the grace of God, I was able to build an amazing ecological farm in the middle of the forest, in an isolated area far from everything. But if you mean an object, it was a paper plane for my little nephew…

 If you could choose, what would you like to be able to do with your hands?

To play music!

Looking back on everything you’ve done in your life – What is the one thing you are proudest of?

As a person, I am extremely proud to have had incredible parents, a phenomenal wife and adorable children. As a doctor, I am most proud of the medical and surgical team that supports me every day.

Medical Team around Dr. Raiss in Casablanca, Morocco

© Thomas Rusch

Our blog underlines our strong belief in equality and the value of sharing. How does intercultural exchange benefit our global society in your eyes?

Human beings are the same everywhere. As such, intercultural exchange can only be beneficial when understanding others and helping them. I truly believe helping others is the most important thing to do with one’s life, to the best of your ability.

What differentiates Morocco from other countries? What does it have that no other culture has?

Morocco is full of contrasts, through its landscapes (forests and plains, desert and ocean) and its people (white, black, Muslims, Christians and Jews…). It is part of its charm and beauty. Moreover, we are fortunate enough to have a King who is close to his people, attentive to their problems and brave in his decision-making. He is a true Leader of the Faithful. 

How would you describe the “Tastes of Morocco” and what is your favourite?

A delightful mix of sweet and salty… My favourite dish is Pastilla… Mhmmm…

Twice a year you are travelling around Morocco to give people around the country their eyesight back without compensation. Where does your motivation come from to do this?

My motivation stems from the fact that during these expeditions, I operate on penniless patients with the same standard of quality as those who come to me privately in Casablanca, without stripping them of their dignity. That is why I travel with all my staff and all my surgical and medical equipment, despite the risk.

Cataract Patients in Morocco waiting for treatment
© Thomas Rusch
At this point you have operated more than 300 people with cataract. Can you describe the reaction of people when they first see again? What has been the most memorable reaction you experienced?

Indeed, through Albassar, I operated on 300 people with cataract, which enabled them to reintegrate into society quickly. A patient’s first smile the day after an operation is always very moving. I recall a young woman and her mother reuniting after years of not being able to see each other because of their cataract…

Surgeon Dr. Raiss with treated cataract patient
Choosing from sight, taste, touch, smell and hearing – What sense could you personally not live without?

Sight, of course! It enables me not only to appreciate daily life but also to perceive people’s distress and come to their aid.

Lara Petersen

Lara Petersen

After seven years of living in different cities around the globe and topping her experience with a one year solo world trip, Lara returned to her beloved hometown Berlin in 2015 and ever since combines her passions cultures, communication and writing by working as part of the ABURY family.

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