June 24, 2020

ACLS Training in Erbil, Iraq

Returning to Iraq this time was different. Having invested over the last year in continued correspondence with those we had met previously on our first visit, we are building relationships and returned as friends and colleagues. Erbil, Iraq is a region where warm hospitality and complex volatile circumstances coexist. It is a region with a large influx of displaced refugees from areas of violent extremism and hatred. Despite this reality, our experience was one of celebrity status welcomes and family like inclusion.  John Miller with OneVision International, Bryan Balentine, MD, FACEP and I returned to Iraq to link two often misperceived groups of people together through the practice of medicine.

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Over the past year we have purchased and collected donated medical equipment and humanitarian aid to support an emergency medicine residency training program at Rozhhalat Emergency Hospital.  The program is the only one of its kind in the region and is training the newest generation of emergency physicians that will shape emergency care in this region of the world. This year we went with the goal of providing Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certification and resuscitation lectures to a group of seventy physician colleagues at a variety of levels of training.

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Bryan and I ran mock case scenarios to aide in the teaching and reinforcement of ACLS guidelines. This was a new experience for these Iraqi physicians. We had an initial interest from one hundred thirty physicians but had to turn away sixty plus physicians due to lack of our resources and time. We spent two and half days on the mock scenarios and lectures on resuscitation. The ACLS certification for these physicians required previous online study that we had set up for each of the students before our arrival. This was made possible through a generous US based company that provides such certification to US physicians. Although we were able to obtain a reduced price for the certification course, there was still a significant cost to the individuals seeking certification. Many of these physicians were students.

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Thousands of dollars were contributed by OneVision International and various donations, including our own. All was garnered to improve the care of human beings in this region of the world, and to build collegiality and friendships between western and middle eastern people. Working with an emergency medicine residency training program, its director, the hospital director, and the local government made this a fruitful experience that we hope to build upon. Our future plans include helping to implement a triage system for this government funded facility that sees eight hundred patients daily. The busiest US hospitals see up to three hundred patients daily. Currently, patients are typically brought in by family or other non-medical persons and dropped at the hospital in a chaotic environment. Often, these patients are seriously injured or ill with life threatening afflictions. We hope to provide additional ACLS training, Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) training and Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS). Plans for collaboration with a US based emergency medicine residency program at my institution and the program in Erbil are being discussed. Additional opportunities for education, research and training via internet-based communications and international EM resident clinical rotations are being planned.

Why will I return?  Because I always gain something I did not anticipate through these ventures, something that challenges me, shapes me, and gives me a much greater purpose.

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Greg Jacobs