Helping med students in Iraq

A mission that assessed Iraq’s public health-care system convinced two U medical students to launch a book drive for medical schools in Iraq.

Second-year medical students Gaby Vargas and Karly Pippitt decided to join the book drive with 15 other medical schools in the United States.

Saddam’s regime and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has brought the country’s health care system to a virtual standstill for the past 15 years, Vargas and Pippitt said.

Iraq’s budget for the Ministry of Health being 10 percent of the budget 10 years ago shows the neglect of Saddam’s regime for health care.

Vargas and Pippitt got involved in the project after reading an e-mail by a U.S. Army battalion chief which outlined Iraq’s public health crisis, they said.

“It was a good idea and a good way to help,” Pippitt said. “Students and physicians have it bad in Iraq, this [book drive] will help give them a chance.”

According to Garza’s e-mail, Iraq’s public-health crisis can be seen by the status of the Tikrit Teaching Hospital, formally known as the Saddam Hospital of Tikrit.

The hospital is able perform 10 MRIs a week due to the inexperience of the staff.

The hospital contains a 10 bed critical-care unit but has monitoring equipment that is 20 years old, and only the cardiologist is allowed to use the one defibrillator he or she owns, Garza’s e-mail said.

Along with inadequate hospitals and health-care facilities, the corruption of medical education was another problem Garza and his team were able to identify.

Garza said students who were the sons and daughters of soldiers killed in the Iran Iraq war were given a bonus of five points on every exam taken.

“It’s wrong to help medical students for random reasons,” said Vargas. “Medical school is hard enough as it is.”

Tikrit University College of Medicine has two copies of Robin’s Review of Pathology, a basic medial student textbook, for its approximately 500 students to share, the e-mail said.

“We can indirectly help not only Iraqi medical students but also the entire Iraqi population,” Vargas said.

Vargas and Pippitt are asking for basic and clinical medical textbooks and journals in reasonably good condition, printed within the last 10 years to be donated by March 31.

They have already collected 50 books, part of their 500 book goal. z Books will be sent to New York the first week of April through military shipping.

Drop boxes are located in the student lounges, the dean’s office of the School of Medicine and in hospital academic departments.

Organizers of the drive see this as a way to help even things out for their Iraqi counterparts. “It’s nice to give someone else a chance in an unjust situation,” Pippitt said.

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