Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Exporting Technology to War-Torn Regions

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Exporting Technology to War-Torn Regions

Article excerpt

With the help from a San Francisco State professor, medical-information centers are changing the face of Iraqi medicine

As Dr. Gary Selnow watched California's high-tech boom of the 199Os transform people into millionaires literally overnight, he believed it should mean more than just greenbacks and stock options. So the San Francisco State University professor of communication put that belief into practice. He has improved access to technology and medical knowledge in post-war Iraq in a way that is saving lives daily.

By installing medical-information centers in Iraqi hospitals and medical schools, Selnow and his team of volunteers have introduced doctors, nurses and students to treasure chests of health-care knowledge. New diagnosis methods, surgical techniques and treatment options are now more available to Iraqi physicians. And current drug information is giving pharmacists there a chance to decide what else to stock on their shelves. These are basic health care tenets in the West, but years of international sanctions under Saddam Hussein stifled the flow of information into and out of Iraq.

Without access to the global well of medical knowledge, Iraq's health-care system dried up, much like a human body atrophies if deprived of nutritients and exercise. Selnow's goal is to install 50 medical-information centers. Currently, 19 are operating. A former Air Force pilot, Selnow has made a series of low-profile trips into unstable regions.

Each new medical-information center consists of at least six networked computers and CD-ROMs of the latest journals, databases and tutorials compiled from universities, government, pharmaceutical companies and non-governmental organizations. Whenever the Internet has become locally available, Selnow's team has facilitated access to proprietary medical Web sites.

Only two centers have Internet capabilities so far - a sign of Iraq's poorly developed telecommunications infrastructure.

Selnow has also collaborated with SFSU nursing faculty to design a quick-start training course on CDs and DVDs for Iraqi nurses. Until recently, nurses did little besides change bedpans. Most did not even know how to take a patient's blood pressure. But Iraqi doctors, overwhelmed by the volume of patients and injuries, began recognizing the need to have nurses who were more on par with their Western counterparts and asked Selnow for help. …

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