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BACK to Basra Dr Laith Al-Rubaiy reflects on his experience at the Basra Medical School's 16th International Meeting, and the potential of the Iraq medical education system, following his latest trip home.

"The 16th International Meeting in Basra Medical School presented more than 75 abstracts. The conference was well attended by more than 300 delegates and senior officials and professors from Basra university and academics from other universities in Iraq. I presented my experience with the cancer screening programmes in UK for bowel and liver cancers to transfer knowledge and learnt lessons to my Iraqi medical colleagues. The concept was well received and I am working with the local authorities in Basra to implement the action points from the meeting."

"Medical education in Iraq was one of the best educational systems in the region, especially during the 1980s. However, it went through difficult decades of wars, sectarian conflicts, and financial sanctions. Today, and after more than a decade of the 2003 Gulf war, medical education and training in Iraq continues its confident strategic plan to shape the future of medical education in Iraq with optimism."

"I was very impressed by the quality of the studies and scientific discussions workshops that were held during the meeting. Iraqi doctors and scientists, despite all the difficulties and limited resources, managed to maintain their knowledge and pursue good quality research in various aspects of medicine. A second medical school in Basra was launched recently to meet the demand of doctors in Basra and the southern part of Iraq. The new medical curriculum is based on the up-to-date teaching method that we use in the UK."

"In the last year, I have made several visits providing care via a mobile health clinic and, last week, provided medical support to the Arab Marsh Arabs in the south of the country . The country’s health system faces many challenges but there is now an air of cautious optimism."

"I volunteered to see hundreds of patients in remote areas on Basra (Al-Khora medical center) which was built by AMAR charity, a Westminster based charity that has been supporting charity work in Iraq since 1991. Their visit is covered on their website."

"If this positive momentum continues, it will not be long till Iraq medical education system, that once was the best education system in the region, resumes its full potential."

"Arab Marshes has breathtaking wildlife that has been recently inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List Sunday in 2016. This area is inhabited by people who live on agriculture and raising animals especially water buffalo. I volunteered to see patients at a local hospital in the marshlands of Thi-Qar governorate."

"Of course, there is still a huge amount of work to be done, and Iraqi doctors need all the help they can get. There is a great need to develop more specialised centres, primary health centres, train more doctors and nurses. Iraqi doctors and nurses need indemnity to allow them care for their patients with no fear or pressure from patients’ families or relatives.

I attended a workshop in Basra that discussed launching a new government-funded health insurance legislation to cover the increasing costs of healthcare that most patients cannot afford. This is a great step forward to provide equality and quality in health services to everyone. If this positive momentum continues, it will not be long till Iraq medical education system, that once was the best education system in the region, resumes its full potential."

Reproduced by the BSG with permission from Dr Laith Al-Rubaiy (March 2019).

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Photos reproduced with permission from Dr Laith Al-Rubaiy

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