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Drexel Medical Students Lend a Helping Hand to Future Iraqi Physicians

June 22, 2007

Drexel University College of Medicine students have boxed up and shipped out 350 medical textbooks to Iraqi medical students. The 45 boxes filled with books were sent to future physicians in Kirkuk, Iraq.

The plea for recent medical schoolbooks came from a graduate of Drexel University College of Medicine stationed in Iraq and aiding Kirkuk’s two-year-old medical college. Christopher Curtis, MD, (Drexel University College of Medicine, class of 2005) is a surgeon with the third Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. In addition to overseeing the health care of 3,000+ soldiers, Dr. Curtis is the leading official for the Iraqi civilian health system and the United States Army in the region.

One of Dr. Curtis’ duties includes overseeing the Kirkuk University Medical College with its 175 students in their first and second years of study. This is the first medical university in this area since Saddam Hussein prevented the Kurds or Shia in the region from attending medical school. Currently, these Iraqi students are sharing a limited number of medical texts that date from before the Iraqi embargo of 1991. Their primary medical hospital is the former Saddam Hussein hospital, now called the Azadi Hospital, meaning liberation, in Kurdish.

In an email to Drexel University College of Medicine, Dr. Curtis explained their needs and asked for help, “If alumni, faculty, and students could comb their shelves for unused or little used texts it would mean a great deal to the students and faculty…These student physicians are exposed to incredible situations that will make them excellent doctors.”

In response, Anand Jain, a third year medical student and president of the student government association, organized this book collecting initiative. Jain says, “This project is a project that the students readily undertook to help our colleagues, even though we may never meet them.” Local American doctors serving in Kirkuk agreed to cover the cost of shipment by donating $500.