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On a medical mission to Al-Anbar

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Patricia Kavanagh, MD, assistant professor of neurology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, 450 Clarkson Avenue, was one of two US-based physicians traveling to Al-Anbar Province in Iraq this summer to participate in a medical teaching conference for the benefit of Iraqi healthcare workers. This was the first such conference in Anbar since 2003, the province having been the site of major violence until recently.

Organized by Dr. Ahmed Ibrahim Saleh, the Iraqi Director General of Health, under the theme of “Science Defeating Darkness,” the conference included four days of lectures and clinical teaching. Dr. Kavanagh made the trip at the invitation of the US State Department, which provided financial and organizational support.

Michael Carey, MD, chief of neurosurgery at the VA Hospital in Manhattan, was the other US-based physician. Iraq-based American military physicians also accompanied Drs. Kavanagh and Carey to the conference, which included tours of the General Hospital and Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Ramadi, the provincial capital.

“We were very impressed by the knowledge of the Iraqi physicians and surgeons in Ramadi,” said Dr. Kavanagh. “They were very eager to learn from us, and I believe we had a positive impact on their ability to meet the tremendous needs of their patients.”

While violence has decreased, Dr. Kavanagh noted that there were still serious infrastructure problems in the province, and deficiencies in medical equipment and medications. “The equipment they use is very old, and the medications are of an early generation.”

Dr. Kavanagh, who was joined by Dr. Carey at Neurology Grand Rounds at SUNY Downstate recently, pointed out that although the Iraqi physicians are knowledgeable about medicine, most of their knowledge is from textbooks. “They have excellent clinical diagnostic skills,” she observed, “but they have not been able to get advanced clinical training in Baghdad or abroad because of the security situation.”

“Ultimately, it will be the Iraqi people who solve their healthcare problems, but I was honored to be asked to help, and hope we can do more for them in the future,” Dr. Kavanagh concluded.

Dr. Kavanagh has lived in Brooklyn Heights for 33 years with her husband, Jim Grant. One of their four children, First Lieutenant Emily Grant, is serving in Ramadi as a US Marine Corps civil affairs officer. Lt. Grant is working on reestablishing social services, such as women’s schools.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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