Obituary: Maysoon Mahdi Abbas

This obituary was written by Maysoon’s husband Maan Alkaisi (Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Canterbury, Christchurch); and daughters Sarah Alkaisi (Consultant Software Engineer), Marwa Alkaisi (Associate Project Engineer) and Mariam Alkaisi (University of Canterbury student, Environmental Science).  Maan is a Principal Investigator at the MacDiarmid Institute.  It was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, Vol. 124, No.1333, 2011.

Maysoon sadly lost her life on 22 February 2011 as a result of the catastrophic collapse of the CTV Building in the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Christchurch. Maysoon was examining a patient at that time; she lost her life while she was doing what she has always been proud of and passionate about.

Maysoon was born in Baghdad, Iraq. She graduated in 1973 with a MBChB degree (Bachelor in Medicine and Surgery) from the College of Medicine, Baghdad University.

After progressing from house officer, senior house officer and registrar in different hospital departments in Baghdad, she was awarded a postgraduate scholarship and obtained a MMedSci (Master of Medical Sciences) from Sheffield University, UK in 1981.

Maysoon returned to Iraq in 1981 and lectured at the Medical School of Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad for several years, teaching immunology (her MMedSci specialisation), before leaving Iraq with her family in 1991 when the first Gulf War broke out. From 1991 to 1993, she worked at a medical practice in Algeria as a GP before moving to Amman, Jordan, where she worked for two years (1994–1995) as an immunology specialist at Al-Bashir Hospital, the main hospital in Amman. In September 1995, Maysoon and her family migrated to New Zealand and settled in Christchurch, the cityshe loved and considered home.

From 1996 to 2003, Maysoon worked as a Research Fellow at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Christchurch School of Medicine, University of Otago. She was credited for establishing the cell immunoblot method, and set up the Western blotting for c-fos protein in gonadotroph cells, publishing several papers on this subject. Maysoon made an important contribution to the research programme in bionanotechnologies at the University of Canterbury, now an integral part of the MacDiarmid Institute.

Maysoon’s position as a medical researcher at the School of Medicine during her early years in Christchurch helped to connect the Medical School (Otago University) and the School of Engineering (Canterbury University) through her husband (Associate Professor Maan Alkaisi) to begin strong and successful bionanotechnology programmes.

Maysoon was a strong woman and very determined; she made her family believe in themselves and taught them how to achieve their best. She devoted her life to her family and loved her profession as a medical doctor treating patients from different cultures.  She worked and lived in five different countries (Iraq, United Kingdom, Algeria, Jordan and New Zealand).  She enjoyed travelling and exploring new cultures and she loved artwork and cooking.

In 2003, Maysoon decided to go back to clinical practice and managed to successfully pass the NZREX Clinical Training Programme.  She worked at different departments in Christchurch’s main hospital and other hospitals (The Princess Margaret Hospital, Acute Psychiatry at Hillmorton Hospital).  Then, in 2006 she joined the General Practitioner Training Programme and started working in February 2007 as a GP in the West Coast for a rural attachment at High Street Medical Centre, Greymouth, and at Westland Medical Centre, Hokitika, which she enjoyed tremendously.

Due to family commitments she returned back to Christchurch to practise as a GP at the Moorhouse Medical Centre, the 24 Hour Surgery and lastly at The Clinic Medical Centre. The respect and regard that Maysoon earned as a GP is demonstrated in the many, many tributes that have been posted online in her memory. Here are tributes from a patient, the Salvation Army and a colleague, respectively.

– I am one of the Clinic’s patients and saw Maysoon often. I want her family to know that I am so thankful she wasn’t happy with a mole on my back, correctly diagnosed a skin cancer and successfully removed it for me. She was such a patient and methodical person, dogged in her determination to get a correct diagnosis and treatment and I will miss her very much. She was taken from you far too soon.

– The Salvation Army Reintegration team want to send our condolences to the family of Dr Maysoon.  We have worked with the doctors at the Clinic for the past couple of years.  Dr Maysoon helped many of our clients and I know she will be remembered by them as well as our team at the Salvation Army. Dr Maysoon will be sadly missed, but always remembered as a doctor that really cared.

– Dear Maysoon, You are one of the kindest, most compassionate, professional and patient Health Professionals I have ever had the honour to have known. Your sense of humour, and pride and love for your family are well remembered. It has been an honour to have known and worked with you.

Maysoon was a wonderful wife, caring mum of three daughters and a passionate doctor and will be missed dearly by her family, friends and patients. She worked very hard to see her family strong, successful and happy. Maysoon is best known for her infectious smile and that is how her family will always remember her and hope that everyone will remember her in that way too.