Professor Links Iraq and U.S. Doctors
SF State Professor Gary Selnow establishes teleconferencing with Iraqi doctors.
February 4, 2006 8:45 PM
A live teleconferencing project linking doctors in the United States and Iraq is expected to be up and running by the end of March because of SF State professor Gary Selnow and his non-profit organization WiRED.
Founded in 1997 by executive director Selnow, WiRED has 19 medical information centers in Iraq, with plans for 20 more. “(It) is the only countrywide organization providing healthcare information to Iraqi doctors and nurses,” a press release stated.
Coordination continues on the telemedicine program, after a successful test of the audio and video equipment by SF State’s Marian Wright Edelman Institute technicians with doctors in Baghdad on Jan. 17.
“They filmed our activities in the room and transmitted them there over a broadband signal,” said Edelman’s graphic designer Eric Miller, who photographed the event. “It’s completely synched. The delay is like a second.”
WiRED is scheduled to give a presentation to Children’s Hospital in Washington D.C. on March 15.
“To date there is nothing like this, where physicians are able to have ‘face to face’ conversations with colleagues abroad,” Selnow said.
The program aims to connect UCSF Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Washington D.C., with doctors in Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Erbil.
It will allow joint diagnoses by physicians from various parts of the world, said WiRED spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford.
“The problems with their medical infrastructure precede the (current) war by a decade,” Ashford said. “During the mid-eighties Saddam Hussein… started limiting the kind of information that doctors could access in Iraq.”
According to Senlow, Hussein prevented Iraqi doctors from going to conferences and did not allow them access to medical journals and the Internet.
In February 2004, urologist Dr. Ira Sharlip, from the Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, told the Marin Independent Journal that he witnessed doctors “hungry and desperate” for modern technology and education.
“The medical community touches the lives of all Iraqis,” Selnow said. “If we can improve their access to information, then we’re doing something that will benefit everyone in the country.”
While the non-profit organization has operated in a few countries, it is the first time WiRED is working with a country at war.
“The other places we’ve done work were considered post conflict,” Selnow said. “But here it is not post conflict… it’s conflict.”
WiRED does not have access to the Green Zone – a safe area – in Iraq, said graphic designer Miller.
“They have had to do it guerilla-style wherever they can find a spot,” he said.
Selnow – who was in Iraq in November locating computer hardware and building relationships - makes the dangerous trips in person and without government protection, Ashford said. “We’re always terrified whenever he leaves.”
The project benefits both Iraqi doctors and SF State’s Marian Wright Edelman Institute, Miller said.
“Because there’s been such a conflict, [Iraqi doctors] are really good at treating people on the spot of bomb injuries and shots,” he said. “So they are going to share that emergency information with us here, while we share our information with them. It’s kind of exciting, because it’s a connection to that world.”
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