Once Khalil Abdo had found his specialism there was no going back, and the talented consultant has become a true champion of women’s health. Photography: SusieQ.co.uk
Born in Qatar in 1962, Khalil Abdo spent most of his formative years in Doha and decided whilst at school that he would like to train to be a doctor.
In 1980, before his 18th birthday, he left home and travelled to Dublin to study at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). There, he followed a two-year preparatory course, to bring him into line with his European counterparts, before embarking on his six-year medical degree in 1982.
Following graduation, still unsure of the field in which he wanted to specialise, Khalil undertook a 12-month internship at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, before returning to RCSI as a demonstrator in Physiology, helping to train the medical students following in his footsteps.
By now, Khalil had decided to become a GP. With an engaging personality, and sympathetic manner, he was attracted by the personal nature of the GP’s role. “It’s a very family-oriented role. As a GP, you might see the same patients for years, so you have to be able to build relationships with people and develop their trust,” he says.
In 1990, he left Dublin and made his first move to north west England, to begin his GP training at Barrow-in-Furness, a development which was to shape his future career. As a trainee GP, Khalil undertook rotations in several disciplines, but it was on his obstetrics and gynaecology rotation that he knew once and for all that he had found his specialism.
“It’s a fascinating area and, as a doctor, I found it had everything – from surgery to fertility, from childbirth to the menopause, it’s such a varied discipline,” says Khalil. “And, similarly to General Practice, it’s about building trust and establishing a really strong relationship with patients, and that really appealed to me.”
Wanting to finish what he had started, Khalil qualified as a GP in 1993 then, on the advice of a colleague in Cumbria, he crossed the Irish Sea again, this time to Northern Ireland. “A colleague recommended a highly regarded consultant in the Belfast area who could oversee my training in obstetrics and gynaecology. I had a year in Lisburn and a year in Belfast, before returning to Barrow to complete my training.”
Khalil obtained his MRCOG (Membership of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) in 1996. Determined to become the best he could, he continued his training alongside his hospital work and, in 2002, he was appointed as consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist by the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, based at Royal Preston Hospital.
Obstetrics and gynaecology, as a discipline, focuses on improving women’s health through all stages of their lives, and it is this aspect of his role which Khalil finds so rewarding. “l first started seeing patients with fertility problems back in 1990 and I have seen some of these women through childbirth and right on to the menopause. I’m not sure there is any other discipline, apart from general practice, that requires such long-term building of relationships with patients.”
Granted Fellowship of the RCOG in 2009, Khalil was the clinical lead for fertility services at the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust from July 2002 to June 2016. As well as fertility, he has extensive experience in general gynaecology, menstrual disorders, the menopause, primary surgical treatment for pelvic floor prolapse and assessment of pelvic pain.
Khalil is acutely aware that women’s reproductive health is an extremely personal and intimate subject, and he understands how important it is for women’s concerns to be taken seriously. “Women need to be listened to and I find that if you take the time to build trust and to encourage openness, we will not only find out what the problem is, but we will also be able to do something about it.”
Khalil lives in Preston with his wife, Janet. Their two grown up children, Sara and Ribhi, have flown the nest but the couple have their two beloved beagles to keep them occupied. Away from work, he likes to relax by walking the dogs and spending time with family and friends.
Work is never far away though and Khalil is soon to move on to his next challenge which is the setting up of a new Women’s Health Service at the Greater Lancashire Hospital in Preston. “It is the first clinic of its kind in Lancashire, offering integrated women’s health, gynaecology and fertility services, and we really hope it will help to transform women’s health in the county.”