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A child pounds knuckles with a U.S. soldier at the Ramadi General Hospital, May 18, 2009. The soldier was part of a personal security detail that escorted members of the Al Anbar Provincial Reconstruction Team and Coalition medical personnel who visited the hospital to provide assistance to its mental health program.

Photo by Cpl. Bobbie A. Curtis

Coalition medical health team members use expertise to assist Anbari citizens

9 Jun 2009 | Cpl. Bobbie A. Curtis

A Navy doctor from 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) met with an Iraqi psychologist to provide much-needed assistance to the Ramadi General Hospital’s mental health program in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, May 18.

Lt. Cmdr. Tara N. Smith, a clinical psychologist with Combat Logistics Battalion 4, who works at the Camp Ramadi Combat Stress Clinic, and her colleague, Army 1st Lt. Jeffery S. Edelman, a psychological nurse practitioner at the clinic, initiated the opening meeting between Coalition medical personnel and Al Anbar province’s only psychologist.

Smith explained that the overall mission of the visit was to see how Coalition forces could help the hospital’s mental health program.

“They only have one psychologist for the entire province,” she explained. “He doesn’t have the medical support he needs like labs to run tests.  He has antiquated and inadequate amounts of medications and zero patient privacy like we would expect in the States.”

She said Coalition forces have given the hospital a proposal to start teaching nurses and religious leaders around the community how to identify and treat basic mental health issues, a move that she says will make large strides towards providing mental health care in Al Anbar.

Smith added that this will help the hospital with another major issue – more mental health patients than they can handle.

“An appointment in America would normally take between 30-90 minutes,” she said. “Here he had only five minutes for [each] patient.”

While the two American health professionals were at the hospital, they took the time to provide the Iraqi psychologist with some consultations on patients. Smith said that the meeting allowed them to see the similarities and differences in the way the western world and Iraq treat mental health patients.

“The presenting problems were the same,” she said. “The most touching moment was when a young kid asked if Americans have problems and anxiety too.”

Robert Hagan, the official senior public health advisor for the Al Anbar Provincial Reconstruction Team, joined the mission to synchronize plans between the Iraqi doctors and the Coalition medical team.  Hagan coordinates all medical engagements between Coalition forces and Ramadi General Hospital.

“The underlying objective is to improve the credibility and effectiveness of local health authorities so that the population feels more trustworthy of their government,” he explained.

Smith said the overall mission was successful and that she has an optimistic outlook for the future of the hospital’s mental health program.

“The patients seemed very grateful,” she said. “Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to help the Iraqi people?”


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