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WATCH: Highland Heroes 2023 crowns top trauma surgeon Andy Kent OBE Hero of Heroes

By Alan Shields

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A top trauma surgeon based out of Inverness who has dedicated his life to helping others - including those in the Ukranian war and other disaster zones - has been named Highland Heroes 2023 Hero of Heroes at a glittering awards bash.

The award was bestowed upon him as part of the grand finale of the Highland News and Media ceremony at the Drumossie Hotel after he had already picked up the award for healthcare hero of the year earlier in the night.

Upon accepting the top and final award of the night he praised those around him including the rest of those who picked up awards on the night to which he received rapturous applause from the gathered guests.

Taking to the stage, he said: "Thank you everyone, it's been a great night tonight and I really feel humble that I'm surrounded by heroes.

"I've had a fantastic few years. As I say I've been supported by my family, NHS Highland, Highland Rugby Club. I'm surrounded by teams that support me.

"I came to the Highlands first to Fort George when I was a medical officer with the Gordon Highlanders and I fell in love with the place, with the area, the people.

"And when I left the army in 2002 I moved up here with my family. My four kids and my wife, we've had a great life in Inverness.

"And to win this award from the people of Inverness and the Highlands means more to me than all the other awards."

Andy Kent at work.
Andy Kent at work.

Had Mr Kent needed any reminder of the perils of working in some of the world’s most dangerous trouble zones, two near brushes with Russian rocket attacks last spring would have served the purpose.

In truth, the Raigmore Hospital-based trauma and orthopaedic surgeon is well aware of the inescapable risks and grim realities of his dedicated service overseas.

Much as he is aware of those risks, he is thankful above all else to colleagues and close family for supporting his drive and desire to help those in need.

Recounting the missile incidents which happened at either end of an overnight rail journey between two train stations, in the Ukrainian cities of Lviv and Dnipro, there was no bravado, glorification or self-pity.

It was simply a case of straightforwardly outlining what he encountered in the war-torn Ukraine where he was posted in response to the Russian invasion last March.

The former army medic travels on mercy missions with the NHS-fostered charity UK-Med and earned an OBE in the King’s New Year honours list for his service on behalf of the UK Government abroad.

Andy Kent at work in Dnipro with local surgeon and nurse.
Andy Kent at work in Dnipro with local surgeon and nurse.

A doctor and surgeon for the past 40 years, the 58-year-old father of four is married to Jill, and has in the last few years brought his expertise to bear in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Beirut and Yemen, from where he was redeployed to Ukraine in March last year.

Based initially in Lviv, in all, Mr Kent spent 16 weeks in three visits helping to prepare medical teams for an upsurge in casualties, before himself treating armed personnel and civilians, some with horrific “World War One-type” injuries.

There were scenes he thought he would never see in his professional life, but to his credit the surgeon has never flinched from the call of duty.

Of the Russian rocket attacks last May, he said: “Just as we got on the train, late in the evening, there were a couple of missile strikes at the station. There were two missiles that landed right near the station.

“We were advised to stay on the train. We travelled overnight and it took us nearly 24 hours to get from Lviv to Dnipro and, just after we arrived, there was another big missile strike so it was both ends of our journey.

“Over the years I’ve been in lots of similar situations and we knew that most of the missile strikes were targeted, they were quite accurately targeted, so you would be pretty unlucky unless you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Most recently, he was on standby to help earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria after the catastrophic impact of the recent natural disasters.

As well as his work with UK-Med, Mr Kent has taken part in several other missions – with the HALO Trust in Afghanistan, with the World Health Organisation in Somalia and the Primary Trauma Care Foundation in Uganda and India.

Andy Kent at Beirut Port.
Andy Kent at Beirut Port.

He has also received other awards during his current career and army service including military medals and an award from the King of Malaysia, through the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

READ MORE: Winners of Highland Heroes announced in Inverness

Humble to the core, he has always pointed out that other Inverness medical staff have also worked in Ukraine including surgeon Professor Angus Watson; Dr Hamish Hay, an anaesthetist, and Dr Claire Vincent, acute medical specialist.

Mr Kent, who also received the Global Citizen Award at the Scottish Health Awards in November last year, also credits his beloved family and good colleagues for facilitating his work.

He said previously: “My work colleagues have always supported me in my humanitarian missions – sometimes at very short notice.

“And my wife Jill and our four kids have never questioned my desire to make these sacrifices, on all of us”.

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