COMMENTARY

Donations of Medical and Nursing Books and Journals Arrive in Iraq

Anonymous

Disclosures

June 26, 2007

Editor's Note:
This letter was received from a medical officer serving in Iraq, in response to donations he received after we posted this article on Medscape: The Power of an Idea: Help for Iraqi Medical Professionals. Donations are still being accepted. Contact
dgifford@hot.rr.com for up-to-date information on what is needed and where to mail donations.

I just wanted to write a quick note to give those back home who donated the medical and nursing books some feedback on our recent hospital and clinic book distribution. Our "area of operations" involves the towns and cities just north of Baghdad. One of our local national hospitals was shut down by terrorists and the other was looted, so we have a ways to go -- but certainly progress is being made.

I find it very rewarding to work with the doctors in the area -- they are very apolitical and just want to do their jobs in safety. We have a complete mix of Sunni and Shi'a Arabs in our area and I can't think of a doctor that I've met who wouldn't care for someone from the "other" sect. They really do serve as role models for the rest of the country.

Needless to say, the doctors and nurses were absolutely thrilled with the donated books. Most helpful were the recent primary care texts and journals (pediatrics, internal medicine, OB/GYN, and family practice). I will send the recent journals and texts for the subspecialties (oncology, anesthesiology, etc) into Baghdad to one of our sister units for the hospitals there.

Although many of the doctors have some difficulty speaking English, they can read it without problem as they used English-language texts while in medical school. It was wonderful to watch them turn over the books in their hands -- looking at them like they were made of gold! One doctor kept pointing at a journal from February of this year -- he couldn't believe that he had such a recent journal in his hands. To further encourage the doctors to work together, I purposely supplied the largest clinic with the largest number of journals to create the first "medical library" in the area since the war.

It really is disheartening to me to see the constant drone of negative stories that the popular press puts out on Iraq. I have been here for almost a year and have met many, many very good and decent people who have much more courage than I do. It was fun to open the boxes and find notes of encouragement from pediatricians at UCLA and internists in Nashville among others. Please share with them how much their donations of books and journals meant to not only the doctors here, but also those of us "on the ground," trying to help create a better Iraq.

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