July 30, 2008

San Antonio Air Force "Angels" Give Boxes of Books Their Wings

Photos courtesy of Frank F. Montalvo, Lt. Col., U.S. Army (Ret) and UCLA '51 graduate

With the help of angels stationed in Randolph Air Force Base deep in the heart of Texas, UCLA alumnus and retired U.S. Army officer, Frank F. Montalvo sorted, packed and shipped 350 pounds of medical textbooks and journals donated by the UT Medical Library. (Ret) Lt. Col. Montalvo is an American hero! At 80 years of age, he and his wife (who he met at UCLA) finds the time and energy to do service that enriches the lives of others, including our troops and their mission.

A special salute to TSgt Tony Garcia USAF 205th RCAC Mentor in Afghanistan and SMSgt Gary Scott at Randolph Air Force Base for recruiting the AF angels who used their muscle to give the 11 boxes of books their "wings." In two weeks, the books/journals should arrive in Afghanistan. Now, that is something to smile about!

Kabul Medical University Receives Two Tons of Books

Pictured: LCDR Bradford Volk, MC USN presents the ceremonial book (donated by Dr. Frank Pratt, Medical Director of the Los Angeles County Fire Department) to Kabul Medical University Chancellor Qbaid

Pictured: LCDR Bradford Volk, MC USN distributes small handbooks called pharmacopeias to medical students rotating at the National Medical Hospital.

Pictures courtesy of LCDR Bradford Volk, MC USN, Physician Mentor-Afghanistan National Medical Hospital

Today, a team of U.S. military medical personnel went Kabul Medical University (KMU) to deliver over 2 tons of medical textbooks and journals for the university's library. The large majority of these materials were up to date, published within the last 10 years. KMU Chancellor Obaid accepted the ceremonial book from LCDR Volk. The ceremonial book was donated by Dr. Frank Pratt, the Medical Director of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Fifty medical students doing a rotation at the National Medical Hospital received pharmacopeias donated by Tarascon Publishing. These handbooks are what every MD/DO in the United States uses to dose medicine. Because books like these are not usually available in Afghanistan, doctors typically dose medicines off the top of their head and mistakes are common. As a result, incidents of toxicity can occur due to inappropriate dosing.

For more photos, view
LCDR Bradley Volk's Album

July 25, 2008

Heartfelt Thanks from Herat Doctors to Operation Enduring Freedom & Operation Medical Libraries

The average lifespan of an Afghan citizen is only 45 years and over one-third of children do not survive to age five according to the World Health Organization. A key reason for these appalling numbers relates to the extreme lack of trained health care providers in this war-ravaged crossroads of southwest Asia. Operation Medical Libraries (OML) in California and the American military in Afghanistan seek to improve this as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

OML started when the UCLA Medical Alumni Association (MAA) responded to a request to send medical textbooks to medical schools in Iraq. From these beginnings in the spring of 2007, OML grew from soliciting other medical centers and schools in California, such as Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center and the University of California campuses in Irvine and San Diego, and distributing to medical universities and facilities across Iraq and Afghanistan. These efforts reached fruition on 22 July 2008 when over 1500 pounds of texts and medical journals were distributed to the Herat Medical Faculty at Herat University and the Herat Regional Military Hospital in and near Herat, the provincial capital in western Afghanistan.

Colonel Dr. Said Azim Hussaini, Executive Officer and Deputy Commander of the Herat Regional Military Hospital welcomed the 5 visitors from the Herat Medical Faculty. He noted that the military hospital had received several hundred pounds of textbooks as well and expressed his thanks to OML and the American medical mentors who are nearing the end of their one-year deployment. Dr. Azim also said he was pleased that this project will continue when the current team of 14 Navy active duty mentors are replaced by a new team.

The Dean of the Herat Medical Faculty, Dr. G. N. Aram declared his great pleasure and surprise at this extraordinary gift from OML and hoped that this begins a long fruitful relationship. He noted: “We share the goals of education that go beyond borders.” He articulated his and his faculty’s desire that his school could partner with an American medical school for the benefit of the Afghan people. Joining him in thanks and hope for further collaboration were Dr. Mohammad Jan, Chief of Surgery; Dr. Mohammad Hassan Farid, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Dr. Khalil A. Aazar, Chief of Medicine; and Dr. Mohammad Anwar Anwar, Internal Medicine.

Lieutenant Commander Bruce Deschere is a family physician and mentor to the military hospital and point of contact for the OML program in western Afghanistan. The 12 physicians on staff of the military hospital shared stories that brought chills: an ophthalmologist fled to Pakistan during the Taliban rule and now must retrain to regain skills lost while providing general practice care to other refugees. Those who stayed related that Taliban forbade any image of the human body; the Taliban would confiscate anatomy texts and burn them, as well as monitor lectures to ensure that no images were even drawn. Dr. Deschere notes that it is nearly impossible to train future doctors without illustrations of the human body. He says, “As Afghanistan rebuilds its health care system, the lack of texts was critical. OML is meeting that need.” He observed that education is the greatest gift: it makes lives better and can never be stolen. While the books benefit the 400 medical students now, ultimately it may benefit millions of patients. Similar stories are occurring around the country at other medical schools and hospitals, both regional and in the capital of Kabul.

The Herat Medical Faculty was established at the Herat University under the Ministry of Higher Education in 1990. All 42 faculty are trained practitioners in the breadth of specialties and willingly provide education in this challenging environment. Students must compete to enter the government-funded curriculum with a total of 400 students in the 7 year program. The students enter after graduating high school and about 60 receive their degrees each year. The government then expects service in government programs like the military as repayment for the free education.

The donated literature will benefit the 42 faculty and 400 students at the medical school and the 12 doctors and 40 nurses at the military hospital. “We will take whatever you can send us,” said Dean of the medical school, Dr G. N. Aram as he and his colleagues expressed heartfelt gratitude. The Executive Officer of the hospital, Col. Said Azim Hussaini was instrumental in facilitating the distribution and hopes this will continue for the foreseeable future.

OML has provided medical textbooks and journals to six cities/regions in Afghanistan: Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif, Zabul, Bagram, and Herat. All 3 of the U.S. Military Medical Corps branches have benefitted from OML donations. Over 6 tons of medical textbooks and journals have been distributed to Afghan medical universities and hospitals through the project. Says Valerie Walker, founder of Operation Medical Libraries, formerly known as UCLA MAA Books without Borders: "It is an honor to support the U.S. military nurses and physicians in their efforts to improve the quality of medical education and healthcare for the Afghan citizens. May these medical materials cause ripple effects throughout the country for decades to come."

For more photos view LCDR Bruce Deschere's Album

July 23, 2008

The Coalition Cornerstone

In life, there those are chance encounters, which forge monumental relationships that greatly affect our destiny. Like many Americans, I have been very fortunate to cross paths with people whom have become mentors, friends, colleagues, and leaders. What’s striking about Operation Medical Libraries is that those chance encounters happen every minute of everyday. It’s like a movie, where in the midst of conversation, a name passes in conversation, which introduces a new character into the plotline. The network of OML consists of relationships our team has encountered throughout our individual lifetimes, and it’s as if we’ve been wired with a mission switch, that now we’ve been asked to activate.

I can’t begin to tell you how amazing things are developing. It is clear that the world not only understands the need to assist in building healthcare in war-torn regions, but they want to be a part of the change!

I met with Assemblyman Cook on July 2nd to go over the action items he suggested at our last meeting, as well as provide him with a progress report. Thankfully, he again expressed a tremendous amount of support for our program. Legislatures are paid to listen to their constituents, but not only am I not in Assemblyman Cook’s district, but you can tell he has a genuine affinity for OML. He provided me with another list of action items (which Valerie and I began to execute immediately) and we ended our meeting with his signature firm handshake. I do have to mention that I was five minutes early this time around and although there were no tears cascading, a thick fog settled between my lids.

So now we’re racing right along and working around the clock to keep up with the demand. There are no set hours associated with the words “passion” and “global”. Just like any other avenue in life, we’ve hit roadblocks along the way, but the detours introduced us to some alternative routes that might prove to be more fruitful in the end. We’re working on some exciting developments, to which we will continue to keep you in the loop.

In the meantime, I can tell you that the Islamic Society of Orange County is a new proud partner! The Military has requested Medical Books written in Arabic, Farsi and Dari, so they’ll be assisting us in obtaining these books. I have a meeting with Bill Campbell (Orange County Board of Supervisors) on July 30, 2008 to promote OML and a meeting in Sacramento on August 15 with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This is an amazing time for all of us and we couldn’t do any of it without your support!!! ...Heather Anne Cadarette

July 17, 2008

USA Pediatrician Donates Nelson's to Iraqi Pediatrician

Hi my name is Mike Lombardo. I am currently serving in the Balad area, Iraq, as a physician assistant. I have been corresponding with Valerie over the last few months in reference to OML. We have been working to create a permanent medical library at Balad Hospital. Prior to OML, it was merely an almost empty room with shelves.

The Iraqi providers send their thanks and appreciation to all whom had part in making this endeavor a success. I am sending a special thank you from Dr. Riyahd, the head of Pediatrics at the Balad Hospital, who before receiving a brand new copy of Nelson's Pediatrics from OML Coalition Board Member, Dr. Eyla Boies, was using photocopy pages of a 1996 edition of Nelson's as one of his primary sources of medical information.

Thanks again for making a difference in those less fortunate than us. Take care and God Bless, Mike (1 LT) Lombardo

Photo Courtesy of 1LT Michael Lombardo who is pictured with Dr. Riyadh

July 16, 2008

OML Answers 911 From Air Force "Granny" Chief Nurse Mentor

Text courtesy of Chief Nurse mentor, Lt.COL Susan Bassett (Barksdale AFB), who teaches ANA (Afghanistan National Army) nurses at the Afghan Army Hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Photo credit: MAJ Randle McBay USAF

Thank you Operation Medical Libraries, on behalf of all these Afghan people, for all your goodwill. I will be on leave for three weeks, but my team will take care of any of these shipments that come in during that time. I am going home to my husband and then we will travel around to see my three kids, their spouses and my 4 wonderful grandchildren. It has been a relatively odd situation to have Granny deployed to the war zone....so the little ones are all anxious to see that I am really still alive and well.

As soon as I get back from leave our pharmacist and I are going to begin an English medical terminology course. I cringe to think how that will go. There is just no way to express how rudimentary it is to try to teach over here. Their style of nursing is approximately 1940's. When we came their only texts were dated around 1916. Every little thing is an obstacle---like I really wanted the nurses to chart vital signs daily....but they had a very difficult time understanding how the graph paper works since there were only five marks, not ten between the whole numbers.

Another interesting fact is that the nurses do NO documentation....meaning even the medications that are given are not written down anywhere; prescription labels are not printed for meds since the soldiers are mostly illiterate--just hash marks for how many pills to take each day. But then, there are no pill bottles either, so they just roll a small piece of newspaper into a cone, put the pills in and then fold the top over and write the hash marks on the outside. Isn't that creative?

Although we are in the middle of a war zone and the fighting in this area is horrendous, the people we deal with every day are absolutely delightful....so chivalrous and thoughtful. They insist on serving me chai at least 4 times a day "because I'm old". Their average length of life is in the early 40's; 1 in 8 women in childbirth die, 1 of every 5 babies will die before reaching school age. It is pretty tough to see such abject third world conditions for such delightful people.

People often ask me how the Afghan nurses (all men) accept me. Some of our younger girls do have some problems with not being really listened to, but I freely talk about my family and I find I get a great deal of respect because of my age....and also my family status....and maybe a little from 33 years in nursing!

This has been a unique and truly rewarding experience. Here are three photographs that I think display prime mentorship---The first photo was taken the other day when the ANA landed its first medivac helicopter to bring patients to the ANA hospital. In the second photo, I was mentoring ANA nurses on bedside nursing care. In the third photo, we were tending to a Code patient (apply defibrillator paddles and shock with electric current).....if you look closely you will see my hand under the Afghan nurse's hand on the paddle so he couldn't do anything until I was truly ready! The Afghans are making wonderous progress!

I am very proud of our blossoming little library, which right now is only two shelving units in the corner of a conference room. There is a really nice table and chairs in the corner as well. With all of the books we are receiving from Operation Medical Libraries, more shelving units will need to be added. I am wondering, does anyone have the little library checkout cards and the pockets that you stick in the books? I brought some myself before, but with all of your generousity and goodness, I no longer have any left. Teaching the Afghans the basics of library procedures is interesting, to say the least.

Another BIG need are SIMPLE books (preschool-5th grade) that I can use to teach English as a second language, such as a child's dictionary with pictures along with the simple words explained. I probably have about 10-15 people who have come to my basic introduction to English kind of classes. I have another 10 or so that are at an intermediate level. We work through interpreters (4 of which are physicians themselves, and 3 are also nurses). The physicians and the physician-interpreters all have fair/moderate understanding of English from their schooling--especially the medical/pharmacological words. The Afghan administration highly supports any efforts to expand their English so we do classes whenever we can.

Do you ever get physical therapy, pharmacology, radiology/ultrasound or dental books/journals. We have all those specialties as well and I would be happy to accept those. Of course, the very best for us are the pictoral type of books/atlas etc. Many of these folks can sound out English words, but they don't know the meanings.

Anything you send, be it medical books or school books/supplies or shoes or clothes, will be met with absolute delight. I have been so pleased at how Americans, if they really think their donations are getting into the hands of the needy, are ready and willing to send things my way. You guys are no exception and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Thank you.
Lt Col Susan Bassett, USAF, NC (stationed in Afghanistan until January 2009 )
RCAC/Regional Hospital
APO AE 09355

Prayer Request for Relief during Heat Wave in Iraq

Prayer Request Sent by Concerned American in Santa Monica, California

Prayer Request

According to the weather reports, temperatures in Iraq are soaring to 122 degrees! Our troops need our prayers for strength, endurance, and safety. If it be God's will, give these men and women the strength they need to prevail. Of all the gifts you could give a US Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine & others deployed in harm's way, prayer is the very best one. PLEASE stop for a moment and say a prayer for our troops around the world.


Lord, please hold our troops in Your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in this time of conflict. Grant them relief from the extreme weather. Keep them safe, until they can return home to a country that is thankful for their honorable service. Amen.

7-Day High/Low Forecast for Baghdad,Iraq (July 11-17)

Friday: 115ºF/89ºF

Saturday: 117ºF/89ºF

Sunday: 120ºF/90ºF

Monday: 122ºF/91ºF

Tuesday: 122ºF/92ºF

Wednesday: 121ºF/95ºF

Thursday: 120ºF/95ºF

July 7, 2008

Assistant Dean of Medical Faculty in Mazar-e Sharif Presented with OML Books

CDR R. Wesley Farr, MC, USN (FS) Chief, Clinical Services Hospital Mentor Team (Camp Mike Spann) visited the Afghanistan National Army Hospital today and presented Dr. M. Zaher Haidari, Assistant Dean of the Medical Faculty of Mazar-e Sharif with a large number of medical textbooks.

July 5, 2008

Iraqi Doctors Receive Donated Medical Textbooks at Spring Conference

Two hundred medical textbooks from UCLA MAA Books without Borders (which became Operation Medical Libraries) were prominently displayed and distributed to Iraqi physicians attending the United and Healthy Conference, which dovetailed with the 6th Annual Salah el Din Scientific Conference. Attendees were given the opportunity to browse through the collection and take as many textbooks as they wanted.

The first day of the spring conference focused on health issues. It was attended by physicians and government health officials from four northern Iraqi provinces, as well as the Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Julie Gerberding, the Commanding General of Multinational Division North, Major General Mark Hertling, the WHO Representative to Iraq, Dr. Naeema Al-Gaseer, the Multinational Corps-Iraq senior medical officer, COL (Dr.) Joseph Caravalho, and the Deputy Governor of Health, Dr. Hasan Zain Alabdin Naki.

Event summary and photographs were emailed on April 3, 2008 by Christopher L. Perdue MAJ, MC, FS MND-N Preventive Medicine Officer, stationed at Camp Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq

Herat Hospital Dispenses Words of Wisdom

"Use your wealth for your health; not your health for your wealth".
Photo credit: LCDR Bruce Deschere stationed in Herat, Afghanistan

July 4, 2008

U.S. Army Private Comforts Motherless Iraqi Girl

19 year-old US Army PFC Rachel Winner, 4th Squadron, 6th Air Cavalry Regiment, with a sleeping 4 year-old motherless Iraqi girl.The girl was one of the children attending a pediatric clinic on the base, which for that event was turned into a fairground for the children to enjoy. Photo credit: SPC Jocelyn Egleton

In her own words: There were so many things running through my mind at the time of this photo. She was sleeping so I wanted to make sure she was comfortable. I was worried about what the future held for her. I just wanted to make her happy even if it was only for one day. She is four years old and to my understanding, she lost her mom. By the end of the day, she was following me around and calling me, “Mamma.” I still think about her to this day. I never thought someone so young could have such a huge impact on my life. I am a 19 year-old PFC with no children. I will one day be a mother. I am also looking at adoption from a third world country.

July 3, 2008

Letter of Support and Appreciation from LCDR Volk in Kabul

LCDR Bradford Volk, National Military Hospital ETT, Command Surgeon is the mentor to the Surgeon General in Kabul.


July 2, 2008

OML Donations Topple Ten Ton Target

Through the efforts and energies of the U.S. Army, Air Force, and Navy Medical Corps and the U.S. Air Force and Army Nurse Corps, over 10 tons of Operation Medical Libraries (OML) donations have been distributed to classified and unclassified locations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Classified locations cannot be disclosed because some of the towns still have prominent insurgent activity, and there is a need to ensure that the local doctors are not retaliated against. The following unclassified medical facilities have received OML donations:

203rd Corps ANA Regional Hospital (Afghanistan-U.S. Air Force)

345th Combat Support Hospital (Iraq-U.S. Army)

400 Bed Hospital of Herat (Afghanistan-U.S. Navy)

6th Annual Salah el Din Scientific Conference (Iraq-U.S. Army)

Afghanistan National Army Hospital in Gardez (Afghanistan-U.S. Air Force)

Afghanistan National Army Hospital in Mazae Sharif (Afghanistan-U.S. Navy)

Afghanistan National Army Orthopedics (Afghanistan-U.S. Navy)

Balkh Medical School (Afghanistan-U.S. Navy)

Craig Joint Theater Hospital (Afghanistan-U.S Air Force & Army)

FOB Lightning (Afghanistan-U.S. Air Force)

FOB Lagman (Afghanistan-U.S. Air Force)

FOB Sykes (Iraq-U.S. Army)

Herat Regional Military Hospital (Afghanistan-U.S. Navy)

Kabul Medical University (Afghanistan-U.S. Navy)

Kabul Military Hospital (Afghanistan-U.S. Navy)

Kandahar Regional Military Hospital (Afghanistan-U.S. Air Force)

Medical College of Herat (Afghanistan-U.S. Navy)

Mazae Sharif School of Medicine (Afghanistan-U.S. Navy)

Tikrit Teaching Hospital (Iraq-U.S. Army)

Tikrit School of Medicine (Iraq-U.S. Army)

Salah ad Din General Hospital (Iraq-U.S. Army)

Salah ad Din Nursing High School (Iraq-U.S. Army)

Salah ad Din Provincial Drug Warehouse (Iraq-U.S. Army)

Salah ad Din Provincial Health Directorate (Iraq-U.S. Army)

Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team (Afganistan-U.S. Air Force)

A ton of thanks to all of the Operation Medical Libraries program partners. OML has permission to list the following:

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Golden West College-School of Nursing

Roy Kim , M.D.
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Hand and Microvascular Surgery
San Francisco , California

David Marinoff, M.D. '79
High Risk Obstetrics
Berkeley, California

Providence St. Joseph Medical Center (Burbank, California)

University of California at Los Angeles

University of California at Irvine

University of California at San Diego

University of Texas HSC Dental School

West Hills Hospital & Medical Center

AMA Interviews OML for American Medical News

Interview (written because phone service went out in Herat) of LCDR Bruce Deschere for the American Medical Association’s weekly publication, American Medical News.

I am the physician mentor to Herat Regional Military Hospital in west Afghanistan. Apparently, Books Without Borders, now Operation Medical Libraries, started in 2007 to send donated texts to Iraq medical schools. Through the chain of events, it became clear that the situation for medical schools in Afghanistan was just as bad or worse. During the 6 years of the Taliban, any book with any illustration of any part of the human body was destroyed and even drawings were forbidden. While some medical schools remained open in Afghanistan (e.g., Kabul University), teaching anatomy and clinical skills became quite difficult. Therefore, there is a severe shortage of any printed medical literature. When our embedded training team arrived last September, we noted few texts and most were quite old. The texts they had were either hidden or taken with them when fleeing to neighboring countries. We solicited a few donations from back home on our own, but the OML organized effort has trumped our attempts 50-fold.

LCDR Bradford Volk, National Military ETT, Command Surgeon was the first Navy Medical Corps physician to contact Operation Medical Libraries and request textbooks. After a favorable response and the organization's ability to donate enough materials for more than the capital city of Kabul, LCDR contacted us in the regional hospitals to determine our needs and interest. We have received about 1000 pounds of literature in Herat and will shortly deliver them to the Herat city hospital (2000 visits a day), the maternity hospital (55-60 deliveries a day with mom and baby discharged 2 hours post partum), the eye hospital and the medical school. We will have pictures of the distribution event; date is not firm but we hope next week. These books will be used by premed students, medical students and practitioners alike. Internet access is extremely limited and slow, so that is not yet a viable means of education. Add to that the average per capita income of $500 per year and donated texts seems to be the only practical current option. Women have full access to schooling as well, despite the repressive history of the Taliban; however, the doctors are still overwhelmingly male and most women physicians end up in obstetrics. Still, we see progress even in just 10 months here.

My own story is practicing in the Detroit area of Michigan for 26 years and 15 concurrent years of teaching at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. Then I made a career move by volunteering for the Navy in 2006. One year later, I was training for the one year deployment to Afghanistan. I am most gratified to be able to transfer my clinical and teaching expertise, and the docs here are very receptive. It’s a great mission and will do more to stabilize the region than the security forces in the long run.

The photo shows LCDR Bruce Deschere having chai (tea) with one of the Afghan docs at the hospital. Sharing chai is how things get done in Afghanistan.

July 1, 2008

Greetings from the METT, Herat, Afghanistan

That's the Medical Embedded Training Team at Camp Stone near Herat in western Afghanistan. Herat is the third largest city in Afghanistan after Kabul and Kandahar. Herat traditionally has been the more peaceful and prosperous part of the country due to its proximity to the more stable country of Iran. The local language is Dari, quite similar to the Iranian Farsi. We arrived summer of 2007 and have mentored the physicians and staff at the Herat Regional Military Hospital. We are enthusiastic supporters of the OML project and are distributing the medical literature to the military hospital, city hospital, maternity hospital, eye hospital and medical school here and in the city of Herat. Thanks to everyone for your support!

LCDR Bruce