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Iraqi doctors visit Air Force Theater Hospital for medical education conference

An Iraqi child recovering from third-degree burns lies in a crib at the Air Force Theater Hospital Oct. 30, 2009, at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. Airmen of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron provided treatment for her injuries, suffered in a household accident. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

An Iraqi child recovering from third-degree burns lies in a crib at the Air Force Theater Hospital Oct. 30, 2009, at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. Airmen of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron provided treatment for her injuries, suffered in a household accident. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (AFNS) -- Six Iraqi doctors attended a continuing medical education conference at the Air Force Theater Hospital Oct. 30 here.

The conference was the first of what's scheduled to become a monthly event in a broad effort by U.S. medical professionals to share information with local physicians, improve the Iraqi health care system and strengthen relations with the local community.

"We plan to do this here every month from now until the time when we pull up roots and leave, so our goal is to continue and sustain this," said Maj. David Carnahan, the AFTH chief of medical staff. "We've set up a variety of tools to try and establish a schedule far enough out so that (when) the new people come in, there won't be a loss of momentum."

The topic of the October conference was care for burn patients. Hospital officials said the winter months bring an increase in burn-related injuries, corresponding with the increased use of kerosene or gas heaters.

Major Carnahan said new burn injury treatment techniques -- plus information on burn prevention that can be passed along to patients -- is something Iraqi doctors can quickly and easily learn, allowing the knowledge to be implemented at local hospitals relatively soon.

"That's one of the beauties of this particular topic," he said. "It's not really a high-tech sort of thing, and we're trying to focus our efforts toward things that they can realistically do in their current environment. Most of the medications they have here, and the different techniques that we show them like dressing care, physical therapy -- those are things they can have easy access to."

One Iraqi physician who attended the conference said he learned more from his American counterparts than just the step-by-step methodology.

"The most important thing I've seen is the practical points the American surgeons have given us," he said. "It's not just the treatments, it's the skills and attitudes of the doctors. It made me excited to come here."

Another Iraqi doctor said he was looking forward to more in the future.

"The visit was very good," he said. "It taught me and my brothers in medicine about the more scientific part of burn treatments. I plan to continue this training with my other doctors."

Major Carnahan said it's that type of effect the AFTH staff is aiming for.

"We really want the (Iraqi) people to know that we're here to help try to build and strengthen their system so that when we do leave, we will have made a difference beyond just taking care of individuals," he said. "I think as long as we're here -- as long as we have the window of opportunity to help and interact with them -- we should spend all our efforts to try to leave things in better shape than when we got here."

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