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Program Builds Better Health Care System in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 19, 2009 – Afghans are gaining opportunities for better health care through the International Medical Mentorship Training and Internship Program.

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An Afghan man holds his daughter at the Egyptian field hospital in Bagram, Afghanistan, Feb. 16, 2009. The hospital has an open clinic for local people to receive free medical care. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew Thompson
  

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Medical personnel from the United States, South Korea and Egypt have developed the instruction to aid the Afghan Public Health Ministry in establishing its own health care system.

“The goal is to give students an opportunity to see all the factors that it takes to manage an effective hospital,” said Army Maj. Maureen Nolen, coordinator for a two-week medical mentorship program. “We work with and build on the education and training in the various [Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police] facilities.”

While the two-week class initially was targeted at providing the Afghan National Army with the skills needed to manage a medical facility, it has grown to include the Afghan National Police, National Development Strategy health care providers and civilian doctors from district hospitals.

In July 2007, the program began as a two-week residency course. Then, about a year later, the program expanded when coordinators added a three-month course so they could include more civilian health care providers.

The three-month instruction is aimed at Afghan civilian doctors and experienced health care personnel. The curriculum requires students to attend the course twice a week for three months. During this time, they participate in lectures at Craig Joint Military Hospital on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, and then are given opportunities to implement their training by treating local people at the Korean and Egyptian hospitals on base.

Egyptian Col. (Dr.) H.E. Salem, a pediatrician and chief physician at the Egyptian hospital, works diligently with the interns to ensure their level of care also targets the young people within the community.

“We are enthusiastic about working with the Afghan doctors,” Salem said.

At the Korean hospital, the interns are introduced to evidence-based medicine and learn how to properly treat communicative and noncommunicative diseases in addition to common illnesses.

“We expect through this program that the interns will become aware of their public health care programs,” Dr. Seup Park, the medical director at the Korean hospital, said.

So far, the internship program has trained and graduated more than 100 Afghan practitioners, including three women. Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Montserrat Edie-Korleski, who oversees the three-month program, was quick to point out the importance of female graduates and how their success affects the program and the local community.

“We're planting the seed that gender shouldn't be an issue when it comes to being a health care provider,” Nolen said. “Women are a key element in the health of the nation. We would like to see more female recruits.”

As the program continues to grow, one constant remains for this group of professionals working to improve the medical care in this country: teamwork.

“It's a great working relationship,” Edie-Korleski said. “The Koreans have a fabulous system already developed and working for them. The Egyptians have a great doctor staff who are also very capable. We learn from them, and they learn from us.”

Word continues to spread about the success of the program, and classes are filled through the end of the year. Local nationals are encouraged to contact their Ministry of Public Health and provincial reconstruction for more information or to enroll.

“Someone, somewhere always wants to hear about our program,” Edie-Korleski said.

A plan is in place for the internships to include more options in the near future. By the end of March, Afghan practitioners here are scheduled to begin a new veterinary program at Craig Joint Military Hospital. The continuing interest and commitment of the Afghans have been a huge boost to the ongoing success of their mission, Edie-Korleski said.

“The purpose of the program is to train Afghan health care providers in the health care arena, so they can take what they learn and develop their own health care system,” she said. “It's been amazing the positive responses we've gotten.”

(From a U.S. Forces Afghanistan news release.)

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U.S. Forces Afghanistan

Click photo for screen-resolution imageEgyptian Col. (Dr.) Ehab Foad, an opthamology consultant, checks a patient’s eye for cataracts and other abnormalities at the Egyptian field hospital in Bagram, Afghanistan, Feb. 16, 2009. The hospital offers medical services for Afghan citizens. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew Thompson  
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