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Public Affairs

Professor 'wires' Iraq's medical professionals

January 27, 2006

Photo of Iraqi doctors and medical students using one of WiRED's computer centersThanks to communication Professor Gary Selnow and his dedicated band of volunteers, Iraq's medical schools are no longer without critical telecommunications and access to global databases. After equipping medical information centers at 19 Iraqi teaching hospitals, Selnow and WiRED, the nonprofit he founded to do this work, finalized arrangements to equip an additional 20 centers throughout the war-torn country.

For the first time since Saddam Hussein cut off communications between Iraqi doctors and the rest of the world, faculty and students have the technology to consult with colleagues in other countries and tap such critical information sources as those at the World Health Organization.

"Our books have been out of date for many years and we had no reliable source of medical information," wrote Dr. Rani Monther, a graduate medical student at Al-Kindy University for Medicine in Iraq, in a letter to Selnow. "Your centers, with computers, CDs and Internet access provide connection to essential technical data."

When Selnow and WiRED first began their work in Iraq in 2003, medical school buildings were destroyed or empty. Outdated computer equipment, library materials and office furniture in Iraq's medical facilities had been looted or irretrievably damaged shortly after the war began. But this spring, direct teleconferencing capabilities will begin between medical information centers in Baghdad, Basrah, Erbil and Mosul and American teaching hospitals such as Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Selnow and his volunteers work under constant threat in combat conditions. On January 17, WiRED ran a teleconferencing test between a safe house in Baghdad and the SFSU audio-visual center. During the test, the technicians in Iraq paid close attention to their watches; they had to leave for home before nightfall when the streets were least safe.

"Iraq's doctors have asked for communications assistance and these facilities provide that," Selnow said. "This project is a pillar of the Iraqi infrastructure, benefiting the medical community throughout the country. We are very proud that we could meet such a critical need in civilian medical care in Iraq."

Selnow, who is on leave from his teaching responsibilities at the College of Business, conducts his projects in collaboration with SFSU's Marian Wright Edelman Institute. Founded in 1997, WiRED has successfully established medical information centers in Kosovo and Serbia as well as several countries in Central America and Africa. A nonprofit, WiRED's work depends on donations and grants. The Iraq project was funded by the U.S. Department of State and the Medtronic Foundation and other private sources.

For more information or to make a donation, visit the WiRED Web site.

-- Denize Springer


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Last modified January 30, 2006 by University Communications