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Iraqi health-care providers training at Walter Reed

By Sharon Renee Taylor

iraqi physical therapists

Lt. Col. Matthew St. Laurent (right), of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, explains some of the physical therapy practices and procedures at WRAMC to Iraqi Lt. Weaam Mousa, Lt. Tamer Gebur and Lt. Ali Nasaif, all physical therapists, and their translator, Nihad Asker, a dentist, during a tour of Walter Reed, Tuesday. Six Iraqi military health care providers began a six-week rotation at the hospital last week.

WASHINGTON (Jan. 10, 2011) -- Six Iraqi military health-care providers began a six-week rotation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C., Jan. 4, with two Iraqi linguists accompanying the group.

Three Walter Reed Army Medical Centerwill work alongside Walter Reed providers at the hospital to learn best practices through lecture, observation and assisting in the care of patients.

Three other Iraqi servicemembers, who are medical microbiologists, will assist researchers conduct studies at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) at the Forest Glen Annex in Silver Spring, Md.

Col. Van Coots, commander of the Walter Reed Health Care System, said the military-to-military mission is another facet in the multifaceted dynamic of global medical diplomacy in which the hospital and its staff have always been involved.

"This is another great opportunity to share the expertise and renowned specialists, as well as supply sustained, hands-on learning in this world-class facility," Coots said. "There is a reason that Walter Reed is the name that is known worldwide, and long after WRAMC closes it will live on in places like Iraq, and Pakistan, etc."

According to Lt. Col. Shannon Lynch, Walter Reed assistant chief of physical therapy, this visit will afford the Iraqi visitors the same opportunity all students have by working with a staff member at all times, under a WRAMC physical therapist or provider.

Lynch said the six-week, stateside rotation is the first of its kind for the physical therapy mission to teach and train Iraqi military physical therapists in amputee rehabilitation and the care involved in rehabilitation on site at WRAMC.

"The goal is, essentially, that they're building a center in Iraq and modeling it very similarly to our Military Advanced Training Center (MATC) so they can provide that high level, world-class rehab care," Lynch said.

The six-week Iraqi health-care medical rotation is part of a long-term partnership between the Iraq Ministry of Defense Prosthetic Center and U.S. medical facilities, according to retired Col. Chuck Scoville, chief of amputee patient care service at MATC.

"By training the Iraqis to care for their own, we strengthen their military and reinforce for those [who] serve in their military [so] they will receive the highest level of care available should they become injured," Scoville explained.

The U.S. Army also stands to gain in the military-to-military mission, said Col. Aizen Marrogi, a research scientist at WRAIR who will oversee the training of the three Iraqi microbiologists.

Training the Iraqi scientists in research operations, regulatory components and safety will help the Army "home-grow" collaborators for studies, and assist Iraq "build the military capacity for understanding the requirements of infrastructure to support research in the areas of infectious disease and neuroscience," Marrogi said.

WRAIR works with local scientists and physicians in more than 40 countries where the institute operates its mission to support both Soldier and world health, which include studies in communicable and infectious diseases.

"Through their collaboration and their help, we can do the work on new drugs, develop new disease theories, collect samples [from] new, emerging diseases [and help us] find solution[s] for those diseases that can potentially impact our Soldiers when they are deployed in these areas," Marrogi said.

The recent visit is not the first for Iraqis to the flagship medical center of the U.S. Army. Walter Reed hosted three Iraqi visits in 2010.

The first was in May when an Iraqi physician spent a six-week rotation at the Brooke Army Medical Center's Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio. In June, Iraqi Minister of Defense Delegation Abdul Qadir al-Obaidi visited. In August, Surgeon General Maj. Gen. Samir Hassan, who also serves as director of Iraqi Military Medical Services, visited. And finally, in October, four civilian medical personnel visited.

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