News: Afghanistan, US agree to medical education partnership
Story by Lt.j.g. Jacob Joy
KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan and coalition medical officials finalized an agreement on academic partnership between the U.S. Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and the Afghan Armed Forces Academy of Medical Sciences during a meeting at the National Military Hospital in Kabul Sept. 12.
Afghan National Army Maj. Gen. Mohammad Wardak, the ANA’s surgeon general, signed the agreement on behalf of his nation’s security forces and said the effort was a great opportunity to build additional capacity in Afghan medical education.
The partnership paves the way for multiweek doctor exchanges between the countries, triggers funding and technical assistance for research projects, grants access to virtual medical libraries, and establishes long-term mentorship, faculty and curriculum development assistance from the U.S.
Afghan Ministry of Defense health affairs director Gen. Abdul Qayum Totakhil also attended the meeting and said that not just the military, but all Afghan doctors would eventually reap the benefits of building and growing relationships with American military doctors.
“This is a big achievement for all Afghan people,” he said.
Dr. Gary Davis, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan’s medical education mentor, said the agreement provides benefit to the U.S. military medical community as well.
“USUHS has a very strong program for outreach support in infectious disease research,” Davis said.
Those efforts are spearheaded by the Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics’ Emerging Infectious Disease program.
“Afghanistan is quite fertile ground for research. There’s a lot to be learned here.”
Disease and non-battle injuries are a more significant factor for Afghan security forces than battle injuries, Davis said.
Researchers from Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and Afghan National Army doctors have already begun collaborative research and investigators are collecting data on the prevalence of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in Afghanistan.
The support will help AFAMS improve health outcomes among its forces and population while helping grow a graduate program concentrating on infectious disease. Lessons learned will, in turn, provide U.S. military physicians with more data on how to protect American troops.
“Perhaps most importantly, this affiliation provides Afghan medical professionals with access to a faculty counterpart in the United States to whom they can address questions and consult with on clinical and educational issues,” Davis said.
The deal is part of a larger Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by both nations in 2012. As part of the agreement, the U.S. committed to sustained efforts in promoting social and economic development by helping increase the quality of, and access to, undergraduate and graduate-level medicine and vocational training in health professions.
“This agreement represents the great work of [coalition] advisers,” Davis said. “It is a recognition of AFAMS as a center of medical excellence for the region. It recognizes the faculty’s excellence in education, and it represents a commitment by the United States to continuing its educational assistance.”