News: Partnership program between University of Minnesota, Iraq to begin
Story by Pfc. J.P. Lawrence
BASRAH, Iraq — Calling all doctors: soon, doctors from southern Iraq may be able to travel to study with their counterparts at the University of Minnesota.
Col. Michael Rath, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division Surgeon, said he has been in talks to create a partnership program between the University of Minnesota Academic Health Centers and the Basra Medical and Nursing Schools.
A visit to the campus in Minneapolis Dec. 4 was followed by invitations for faculty visitation to address curriculum and instruction, in addition to faculty development in Basrah. A reply from the dean of the Basrah Medical School is expected to frame the relationships for years to come.
The partnership program would allow doctors from Basrah to travel to U of M facilities for one or two weeks at a time to "scrub in and learn the latest advances in surgical technique," Rath said.
The proposed partnership program began with a meal. Rath was attending a July 4 dinner when he was summoned to the commanding general's table.
Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, head of Multi-National Division South, wanted him to meet the cleric, Imam Al-Moosawi, an important Basrah cleric and businessman. What followed was an invitation to meet his brother-in-law, a physician and director of the Al-Moosawi Hospital in Basrah. At issue was the need to provide updates to surgical training for Dr Al-Moosawi and his associates.
Rath and personnel of the Basrah Provincial Reconstruction Team visited the hospital and local schools, which Rath said are the future of Iraq. "This province depends on these schools to produce the doctors and nurses, who, following their training, will provide primary care and go off to obtain specialty training," said Rath
After some planning and outreach, Rath visited the Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany for a meeting with the hospital commander there.
An existing civilian surgeon program offered the training Al-Moosawi sought, and similar contacts with the University of Minnesota should make similar access for surgical training available as details are worked out.
"The citizens of Minnesota have a long tradition of philanthropy not only in the state and in the country but in the world," said Rath, who has supplied his successors with follow-on plans to support the partnership program long after the Red Bulls leave.
"I think what the University of Minnesota schools will appreciate about this relationship is a growing awareness of the challenges of delivering healthcare in a war-torn country, which, after 30 years of strife and war and dictatorship, is trying to emerge."