Back home in the small town of Hornell, Dr. Ismail Mehr, an anesthesiologist at St. James Mercy Hospital, returned from the West Bank of Israel Sunday.

“I was there with the Islamic Medical Association of North America – known as IMANA, on a surgical mission," said Dr. Mehr.

In partnership with the “Palestine Children's Relief Fund,” Dr. Mehr along with Dr. Khalique Zahir of Annondale, VA, and Dr. Taqi Salaam of Chicago spent Thanksgiving away.

They operated on children and adults suffering from horrific burns, congenital hand deformities and gunshot wounds.

“We were in a northern city of Palestine, known as Tulkarm,” states Dr. Mehr who also says 35 patients were treated and 45 surgical procedures were performed, in their care.

“We didn’t face the difficulties as one would think. Providing health care there, I think, was just a matter of accommodating with what they have, in terms of equipment and supplies,” said Dr. Mehr. “I must say the local team and the local doctors, as well as our partners were exceptional, they really made this one of the easiest medical missions that we’ve had.”

Each patient received free surgeries — even the more complex reconstructive ones.

“We actually operated on Thanksgiving Day and it really gives you a perspective for how much to be thankful for," Dr. Mehr said. "I have two younger children, I always think of them.”

He started as a medical relief volunteer following the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 and with over two decades of experience in the medical field he’s able to help train other doctors along the way.

“It might be a drop in the ocean, what we did for a population of over 5-6 million people there, but for those we were able to help, we definitely made a huge difference in their lives,” said Dr. Mehr.