September 10, 2010

NY Times' Readers Respond to OML Article

Operation Medical Libraries (OML), formerly MAA’s Books without Borders, was featured in the Science section of the New York Times on August 31, 2010, which brought world-wide attention to the program. The first correspondence came from a British physician, who had been following OML on Twitter, wondering if OML had a UK operation. Within 24 hours of his email, OML had identified an Afghan province where American and British troops are mentoring local medical professionals, and his books could be sent there.

Since the article first appeared, there has been a spike in OML Website visitors and a steady flow of emails, including one from a pediatrician at CSI Hospital in Bagalore, India, who asked how he could participate. A psychiatrist in Cape Cod packed up medical textbooks while she waited for Hurricane Earl. Large medical universities and hospitals scattered throughout the country are interested in sponsoring OML drives.

The response from the OML military point of contacts (POC) resonates with appreciation. “Hey, I was on R&R!! The books have been coming in, and my boys put them in the conex (container express) for me. WOW, are there any books left in the USA? I have already had a request from outlying army clinics for books. So this is great. I cannot thank you enough,” emailed P. Aitchinson, USA Army nurse, Director of the Afghan Trauma Mentorship Program Task Force.

As the article stated, more than 27,000 new and gently used medical textbooks have been donated to Afghanistan. Using a conservative estimate of $50 per book, the value of these educational materials is $1,350,000 and increasing daily, as new donations are sent.

OML has libraries in four Afghan provinces. It provides educational resources to hospitals, clinics and two of the eight Afghan medical schools, including the premier Kabul Medical University that graduates approximately 360 students every year. Overall, 1,000 students graduate from the medical schools in Afghanistan.

During the time of the Taliban, medical models, and even posters, of organ systems, were not allowed in the classrooms. Pictures in books were also banned. Thus the Afghan medical schools are so desperately in need of such books.

An Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Jacobi Medical Center in Bronx, New York, ordered a new copy of A Comprehensive Study Guide for S. Holtzclaw, deployed in Kabul as liaison, GIROA Office of the Surgeon General. In an email to the donor, Holtzclaw wrote, “Everyone here is extremely grateful for any donations and your generosity. We can certainly use ANY medical texts, especially those concerning Emergency Medicine, with the surge of combat casualties of late. Many thanks!”

To read the New York Times article,>OML Website and click on Resources and Publicity tab.

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