Rebuilding Medical Education in Iraq

Iraqi Medical Faculty
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Iraqi medical school faculty (l. to r.): Mohammed Al-Qurtasi, Eklhas Khalid Hameed, Ebtisam Khalid and Taghreed Khalil Alhaidari. (Photo: Brian W. Simpson)

Battered by 3 major wars since 1980, Iraq has seen its life expectancy fluctuate dramatically: 58 years in 1999 to 63 in 2001 and 58 in 2005 and more recently 72 in 2011 before trending down to 69 in 2015, according to WHO data.

Since 2014 when ISIS seized territory in Iraq, more the 3.3 million people of the country’s population of 40 million have been displaced, increasing poverty and exacerbating health problems and a lack of access to health care.

As Iraq recovers stability today, an important step in rebuilding Iraq’s health system is for the country’s 25 medical schools to produce more physicians, said Mohammed Al-Qurtasi, dean of the Al-Kindy College of Medicine at the University of Baghdad. While the U.S. has 230 general practitioners per 100,000 people, Iraq has less than 10 (Malawi has just over 1), Al-Qurtasi said during a Wednesday morning talk at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene conference (#TropMed17).

In addition to producing more physicians, Iraq’s medical schools need to produce better educated physicians, said Eklhas Khalid Hameed, an assistant professor at Al-Kindy. To that end, Al-Kindy began revamping its curriculum in 2012. “We decided it was time for a change,” said Khalid Hameed. “We want our curriculum to be in accord with international guidelines.”

The old curriculum was teacher-focused and included lectures in large halls and inadequate clinical experience; while the new curriculum emphasizes small-group work and an integrated systems-based approach to medical education.

The biggest challenge? Overcoming senior faculty’s resistance to change. “Each head of a department wants to be king of his department,” she said. “With every change, we have a lot of challenges. It will never be easy.”

Comments +


Kathy Pedersen
November 9, 2017

Please consider the human resources for health category of "Physician Assistant" as a workforce solution for in Iraq.
The physician assistant and other types of medical providers with accelerated and focused training were developed to serve the specific healthcare needs of individual countries. They have an important role in providing care globally in response to physician shortages. Working in over 50 nations, these clinicians increase access to team-based healthcare.
There are several names for these health care workers: Clinical Officers, Associate Physicians, Health Extension Officers, Associate Medical Officers, Clinical Associates, and others. In the US, Canada, England, Germany, Bulgaria, Australia, Micronesia, and several other countries the term Physician Assistant (PA) is used. The PA exists in the US and Canadian military as well.

Dr Narendra Kumar
November 10, 2017

It was my pleasure to provide tuition to an optical dispenser from Iraq recently, on the platform of Optometry Today's Refraction Institute; and I'm interested in knowing about the state of opticianry in that country, to be able to help it out with short-term courses!

September 11, 2018

Medical education is important for every country to improve the health system of the people. Poverty is increasing in Iraq as the health problems in Iraq are increasing, Iraq needs a better health care system.
Brandon Steven

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