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Nations Team Up to Train Afghan Doctors

By Army Spc. Mary L. Gonzalez
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Nov. 17, 2008 – Medical professionals from the United States, Egypt and Korea have partnered to train Afghan doctors.

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Afghan doctors receive hands-on training from Egyptian physicians at the Egyptian field hospital on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The doctors are performing surgery on a local woman who sought care Nov. 12, 2008. Photo by U.S. Army Spc. Mary L. Gonzalez

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The 90-day course, which began in early November, is the first of its kind in Afghanistan, said U.S. Army Maj. Paul R. Brezinski, Task Force Med plans and programs officer.

Five physicians from Kapisa province have enrolled in the course so far. Students divide their time here between the Egyptian and Korean field hospitals and the U.S. Craig Joint Theater Hospital.

“We saw this as an opportunity to utilize the Koreans, the Egyptians and ourselves to help train the physicians of Afghanistan so that they can take care of their own people,” said U.S. Army Col. Dave Geyer, Task Force Med commander.

Students attend lectures at the Korean hospital, do hands-on training at the Egyptian hospital, and focus on life, limb and eye trauma at the U.S. hospital.

“It has to be full coordination because here at the Egyptian field hospital not all of the facilities are available,” said Col. Mohamed Abd Elbaky, commander of the Egyptian field hospital. “So, for example, we don’t have ultrasound [equipment], so we will have to go to the Korean or the U.S. hospitals.”

Each hospital brings a different skill-set to the table, Brezinski said.

“At the U.S. hospital we do a lot of trauma cases, so they will see that aspect in the U.S. hospital,” he said. “They are going to see a lot of patients and clinical issues here at the Egyptian hospital that, quite frankly, we don’t see that often at all in the states or in Egypt or in Korea.”

Afghan physicians, essentially, are getting the best of three medical communities.

“This is a great thing,” said Dr. Sarem Park, medical director of the Korean hospital. “I think diversity is a very important element in any area. The Koreans have a unique way to learn and teach others and give knowledge. The Egyptians also have their own way; the Americans have their own way.

“The Afghans also have to find their own way through seeing what the differences are between them and others,” Park said. “Through diversity and cooperation I am sure they have a good chance of finding their own way as well.”

To attend the course, Afghan doctors commute two hours each way, Brezinski said.

Geyer said they have plans to do away with that long commute.

“Our hope is to actually build a campus here on Bagram, on the post, so they can actually stay here,” he said. “We haven’t got that far in the process yet; we are still looking for funding for some of those issues, but that is our eventual goal.”

With housing available for students, not only will local doctors be able to attend, but people from other organizations as well.

“We have plenty of interest,” Brezinski said. “There will be Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and Ministry of Public Health physicians who would like to come here. It’s really a capacity issue with us. Once we have housing, we’ll have more capacity to take residents on.”

(U.S. Army Spc. Mary L. Gonzalez serves in the Combined Joint Task Force 101 Public Affairs Office.)

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Related Sites:
U.S. Forces Afghanistan
NATO International Security Assistance Force

Click photo for screen-resolution imageA physician at the Egyptian field hospital trains an Afghan doctor as he takes the blood pressure of a local man who sought care on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2008. Photo by U.S. Army Spc. Mary L. Gonzalez  
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