COMMENTARY

December 2005: Donating Medical Books and Journals to Iraq -- The Need Continues

Susan B. Yox, RN, EdD

Disclosures

January 04, 2006

Medical, pharmacy, nursing, dental, and veterinary professionals in Iraq struggle in their everyday quest to provide high-quality care. Besides trying to provide care in the midst of war, they must often rely on photocopies of outdated textbooks and journals in an attempt to stay up-to-date.

Basic medical science textbooks and journals, as well as those relating to the medical specialties, are often unavailable or are available only as well-used copies of out-of-date editions. Such texts are not published in Iraq, so Iraqi students and healthcare professionals are dependent upon those brought into the country.

Beginning in 2003, Medscape has encouraged readers to assist their medical colleagues in Iraq by sending their gently used books and journals. Many have responded -- students and professors, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, medical librarians, veterinarians, and even medical publishers have packaged and mailed books and journals so that Iraqi hospitals, schools, and community clinics can add recently published texts and journals to their bookshelves. Over time a voluntary (and totally virtual) organization has developed that consists of both military personnel and civilians, designed to get the books and journals where they are needed most.

Many of our US military contacts have served as "brigade surgeons," meaning that they oversee the medical care provided in a particular geographic area. For example, Maj. Andrew D. Magnet, MD, PhD, an internist from Ft. Benning, Georgia, oversees the care of about 5000 troops in Baqubah, Iraq. In addition to coordinating the medical care for a full brigade of military personnel, physicians like Maj. Magnet also provide trauma care to Iraqi civilians.

Another part of Maj. Magnet's job has been to assess the Iraqi public health facilities in Diyala Province. He believes that providing up-to-date information is a vital component: "The Iraqi doctors are doing a fine job with limited and outdated equipment and supplies. We would give any donated books or journals to the two local hospitals as well as smaller outlying clinics."

Maj. Magnet presenting donated books to physicians outside a hospital in Iraq.

Maj. Magnet presenting donated books to physicians outside a hospital in Iraq.

Col. John Lammie, MD, is a family practitioner, from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, now in Taji, Iraq. Serving as the senior physician on a large base, he has provided sick and emergency care to coalition forces as well as emergency care to civilian workers. When asked his impression of the Iraqi healthcare system, he replied, "The system is in disarray, rebuilding from years of neglect and sanctions. However, the many physicians and dentists I have met have been well trained and professional. They work under extraordinary circumstances -- equipment shortages, power outages, dangerous travel, and life-threats to them and to their families. Many have endured years of suffering with minimal wages ($5.00 to $20.00/month) but they are eager to learn and to rebuild."

He goes on to describe how the clinics and hospitals need supplies, medications, computers with Internet access, medical and dental educational resources, books and journals, improved medical records, security, etc. The list is never-ending, but providing current books and journals is a good place to start.

Most needed now are basic and specialty medical, surgical, nursing, pharmacy, dental, and veterinary texts, no more than one edition out of date (nothing published before 2000, please).

Basic and well-respected journals are needed as well, such as The New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine, American Journal of Surgery, Pediatrics, American Family Physician, and similar journals in the nursing, veterinary, pharmacy, and dental fields. Ideally, journal issues should have been published within the last 3 years. Full volumes rather than random issues are best, and editions on CD or DVD are welcome.

If you have further questions about what may be needed or want to know the best address for your particular donation, please contact David Gifford, MD for more information. We have no mechanism for shipping your donations, so donors must pay US postage only, to the APO address. Individual packages to APO addresses must not exceed 70 pounds, and the length plus the girth of individual boxes may not exceed 108 inches. Specify the much less expensive "book rate" for books and journals and use "parcel post" for equipment donations.

My wishes for happy and healthy holidays to all our readers, along with a wish for a more peaceful world in 2006. If you have comments or questions about this article or about the Medscape site, please feel free to contact me at syox@medscape.net

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