I've always had a great deal of respect for those who commit to medical professions. All those years of school, then internships and residencies, 80-hour work weeks, all the loans for that expensive education, and all so they can provide the greatest possible service to humanity: saving and improving lives. Of course, doctors in this country make a great deal of money once they get rolling, so that more or less compensates for their sacrifice.
But what if they didn't make all that money? In Iraq, even established doctors earn only the equivalent of a few American dollars a day. They lack anything close to the facilities, equipment, text books, resources and training we have in the U.S. Worst of all, they are constant targets of violence: Iraq’s Ministry of Health reports that 102 doctors and 164 nurses were killed between April 2003 and May 2006, and some 250 Iraqi doctors have been kidnapped in the past two years.
I learned all this and much more about the desperate state of Iraq's public health sector through my work on EPIC's latest Ground Truth interview, with Iraqi public health expert Hala al-Saraf. This is truly a must-read. Hala speaks first-hand about the incredible hardships doctors and medical professionals face in her country, including the forced migration of more than 12,000 physicians who are essential to the health of the Iraqi people.
Yet many young Iraqis seek medical education, even for the lousy salaries and death threats awaiting them once they become doctors. Including Hala herself, who recently returned to Iraq to pursue a career in health policy, these brave men and women are true heroes and peacebuilders, answering their country's desperate cries for help at their own great risk.
To turn things around, Hala argues for a more sustainable approach than what we’ve seen so far from Washington and Baghdad. Instead of building new facilities such as the “Laura Bush” Pediatrics Hospital in Basra, Iraq needs assistance from the U.S. and international community to rehabilitate existing healthcare centers and cultivate a new generation of physicians and healthcare workers.
To learn how Iraqi professionals such as Hala maintain hope in the face of overwhelming odds, and what translating that hope into action can mean for their country, please take a few minutes to read our Ground Truth interview with Hala al-Saraf.
We need more heroes like Hala in Iraq. And we need you to know her story.