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Academic Medicine and Science Diplomacy: Medical Education in Iraq

Kron, Michael MD, MSc; Roenius, Matthew MD; Alqortasi, Mohammed Abdul Mahdi PhD; Alhaidari, Taghreed MD; Hussein, Mohammed MD; Hameed, Ekhlas Khalid PhD; Salih, Ibtesam Khalid MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002918
Perspectives
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Physicians are infrequently selected to serve in the yearlong role of Jefferson Science Fellow (JSF) as senior science advisor for the U.S. Department of State or the United States Agency for International Development. The authors discuss the role of a JSF in promoting “science diplomacy” from the perspective of one alumnus, who sites examples of ongoing, long-term collaborative projects including one focusing on medical education reform in Iraq that would not have been possible without the JSF program. More than 3 decades of political and social unrest, terrorism, the internal displacement of millions of Iraqi citizens, the arrival of Syrian refugees, international sanctions, and the effect of fluctuating oil prices that fund education in Iraq have all led to a standstill in modernizing educational systems and the need for reform. In 2016, new opportunities for international collaboration and travel allowed faculty from the Al Kindy College of Medicine, University of Baghdad, Iraq, to visit the United States, explore U.S. medical school teaching methods, interact with U.S. faculty and students, and then implement their vision of a revised medical curriculum. These faculty members shared their observations with the Iraqi Council of Deans, which represents all 30 Iraqi medical schools. Structural changes in curriculum content and teaching methods have been implemented with the goal of restoring quantifiable excellence in education and health care in Iraq. The authors close with lessons learned to encourage other physicians to participate in the JSF program, which offers a unique opportunity to influence foreign policy through science diplomacy.

M. Kron is professor of medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), Milwaukee, Wisconsin; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8240-5209.

M. Roenius is a first-year pediatrics resident at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

M.A.M. Alqortasi is dean and professor of pathology, Al Kindy College of Medicine, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq.

T. Alhaidari is professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Al Kindy College of Medicine, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8494-8760.

M. Hussein is professor of pediatrics and associate dean, Research, Al Kindy College of Medicine, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq.

E.K. Hameed is professor of chemical pathology, Al Kindy College of Medicine, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0068-3329.

I.K. Salih is professor of surgery and head of the curriculum committee, Al Kindy College of Medicine, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq.

Funding/Support: The U.S.–Iraq collaborative program in medical education that brought 1 author (M.K.) to Baghdad and faculty from Al Kindy College of Medicine, University of Baghdad, to the United States was supported by a grant from IREX (International Research and Exchange, Washington, DC) in collaboration with the Embassy of the United States of America, Baghdad, Iraq.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Department of State, the Thomas Jefferson Science Fellowship Program, or the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Previous presentations: The Iraqi coauthors presented a seminar entitled “Public Health and Medical Education Priorities in Iraq” at the 2017 American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) annual meeting. The authors retain rights to these 4 PowerPoint presentations but will make them available upon request through the corresponding author.

Data: Written permission to reproduce Chart 1 for this Perspective was obtained from the World Health Organization Eastern Mediterranean Regional office in Egypt.

Correspondence should be addressed to Michael Kron, Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 Watertown Plank Rd., 8th Floor Hub Bldg., Milwaukee, WI 53226; telephone: (414) 955-5613; email: mkron@mcw.edu.

Copyright © 2019 by the Association of American Medical Colleges