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American Forces Press Service

Experts Meet in Pentagon to Discuss Rebuilding Iraq's Health Care System

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 2007 – A group of public health experts gathered in the Pentagon Aug. 30 to focus on rebuilding the Iraqi health care system.

Dr. S. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, convened the meeting in part to help the new health attaché to the U.S. Embassy in Iraq understand what is happening in the country.

Dr. (Lt. Cmdr.) Bruno Himmler of the U.S. Public Health Service will leave for his position in Baghdad next week.

Casscells, a colonel in the Army Reserve, deployed to Iraq in 2005 and served as the liaison from Multinational ForceIraq to then-Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. For his contributions, the Iraqi army made Casscells an honorary member of the Iraqi Medical Regiment.

“What we want to do here is to help you avoid making the same mistakes we made,” Casscells told Himmler.

To that end, the meeting brought together representatives from Defense Department medical personnel with representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services, non-governmental agencies, Iraqi physicians.

Meeting participants discussed various topics, including primary care vs. emergency care, building primary care facilities, hospital construction, training of Iraqi medical personnel, working with the Iraqi Ministry of Health and ways to capitalize on private-sector Iraqi medical professionals.

Air Force Surgeon General Dr. (Lt. Gen.) James D. Roudebush, who recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan and Iraq, spoke of the way forward in Iraq and of the general Iraqi attitude toward health care.

Roudebush said the pre-war Iraqi medical establishment had good technical skills, but that the equipment and training in newer facilities and techniques were often lacking.

He told Himmler to not underestimate the challenges of rebuilding a health care system in a “non-permissive environment.” Terrorists are targeting health care facilities, he said, in an attempt to show the people that the Iraqi government and coalition forces cannot carry through with humanitarian efforts.

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