Afghan doctors receive training from Egyptian, Korean, U.S. physicians PDF Print E-mail
Written by Spc. Mary L. Gonzalez CJTF-101 Public Affairs   
Tuesday, 25 November 2008

081112_A_7103G_001.jpgBAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (November 15, 2008) – Afghan physicians from Kapisa province are learning from the medical communities of three different countries, yet it’s all happening at one place: Bagram, Afghanistan.

This unique, 90-day medical course will provide these Afghan physicians with training like no other available to them before, in fact this course is the very first of its kind in Afghanistan, said Maj. Paul R. Brezinski, Task Force Med plans and programs officer, who is helping to orchestrate the event. 

The course began in early November and runs through January.  It takes place at the Egyptian Field Hospital, the Korean hospital and the U.S. Craig Joint Theater Hospital.  Five physicians have enrolled in these classes so far, including Dr. Mirza, the director of public health for Kapisa province.

The importance of the partnership between these three completely different counties was stressed by the TF Med commander, the Commander of the Egyptian Field Hospital and the director of the Korean hospital.

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

Just as different medical issues and doctrines are sometimes specific to different countries, those differences are represented in these three clinics.

“We all bring our own piece to the table,” said Brezinski. “At the U.S. Hospital we do a lot of trauma cases, so they will see that aspect in the U.S. hospital.  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 will essentially be 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.”

Since doctors from smaller clinics would not be able to attend, doctors from larger clinics will take what they learn here and go back to teach other physicians in Kapisa, furthering this into a ‘train the trainer’ program, Mirza said.

The recruiting is done through Provincial Reconstruction Teams who contact local medical clinics and propose for physicians to come.

“They went out and talked to [local physicians] and found out a lot of people were very interested,” Bresinkski said.

To attend the course, the Afghan doctors drive two hours each way to the base from their homes in Kapisa, Brezinski said.

“They actually car-pool with Dr. Mirza,” Brezinski said. “So as the weather gets bad it will probably be more difficult to get here.  Dr. Mirza thinks this is important enough for Kapisa, for his physicians, that he drives them out here himself.”

Col. Dave Geyer, Task Force Med commander, 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,” Geyer 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 groups and individuals 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.”

With the Afghan students residing on the base, they can then rotate through the three countries’ medical facilities with ease with each week divided up between the hospitals and allow for more class time.
 
“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,” Geyer said.

Some of the medical equipment they will be trained on is available in Kabul, but they lack experience with it in the nearby provinces, said Park.

“Even though I’ve heard they have the equipment,” Park said, “they are often broken and they don’t know how to fix them or use the equipment properly.”

Right now they are just focusing on how to properly use the equipment, but they have plans for maintenance programs, Park said.

Currently, the program is focusing on primary care and basic medical care. The Korean facility is used for lectures and classroom time.  The Egyptian facility is the next step with lots of hands-on training involving local patients with issues common to this area in Afghanistan, and it also includes live operations.  The Craig Joint Theater Hospital supplements, the other two facilities with life, limb and eye trauma cases.

“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.”

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