WSU Professor Hikmet Jamil, M.D., Ph.D., left, welcomes Hassan al Kazzaz, M.D., to Wayne State University.
Hassan al Kazzaz, M.D., Iraq’s general director of Public Health, visits the School of Medicine.
Initial steps to open the first college of Public Health in Iraq were taken at Wayne State University School of Medicine this week.
Iraq’s Hassan al Kazzaz, M.D., general director of Public Health and assistant to the Iraqi minister of Health, arrived in Michigan on Saturday for exploratory meetings with several faculty members in various departments, organized by Occupational and Environmental Health Professor Hikmet Jamil, M.D., Ph.D.
The visit is part of an effort to secure a grant that would help establish the college and other research, educational and clinical collaborations between Iraq and WSU, said Bengt Arnetz, M.D., Ph.D., vice chair for International Affairs in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences and professor of Occupational and Environmental Health.
Dr. al Kazzaz toured the School of Medicine, observing its infrastructure, best practices and the possibility of setting up intensive training courses here for Iraqi medical professionals. The goal is to establish an Iraq-based Public Health institute that directly collaborates with the WSU School of Medicine to train medical staff and aspiring physicians from the Middle East in specialties such as Family Medicine, Public Health, Occupational Health and Anesthesiology.
“We are in most need of this school, and part of that is the education of the people to change their behavior,” he said. “Iraq was the resource for all Middle Eastern education before the 1980s, but after war and sanctions, a lot of infrastructure was destroyed.”
There are only 168 Family Medicine physicians in Iraq, he said, spread throughout 2,331 health centers. The ratio of physicians to patients is below that needed for an effective and self-sustaining health system.
“We have to work on that with our friends at Wayne State University,” he said. “We want to work on changing the system.”
Dr. al Kazzaz was scheduled to meet with WSU faculty members and staff throughout the week, including School of Medicine Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.; WSU Associate Vice President of Educational Outreach and International Programs Ahmad Ezzeddine, Ph.D.; WSU Department of Anesthesiology Professor and Chair Douglas Bacon, M.D.; and the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences leadership team and its directors, including Professor and Chair John Boltri, M.D., F.A.A.F.P., and members of the Master of Public Health program’s leadership team.
Dr. al Kazzaz chose WSU as a partner to build a newly constructed school because of the university’s reputation and Dr. Jamil’s ongoing relationship with the Middle East medical community.
Dr. Jamil is a native of Iraq who came to the U.S., and WSU, in 1997. He founded the Iraqi Society of Occupational Health and Safety in 1992. The society named its conference room for him in part for his contributions to increasing awareness and understanding of the role of occupational health and safety in Iraq during the last three decades. He has served as a consultant to the Iraqi Ministries of Information and Cultural Affairs, Health, Labor and Industry.
Dr. al Kazzaz, a Family Medicine physician and president of the Iraqi Family Physicians Society, fled his country for the United States because of safety concerns. He worked at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
In 2008 he was asked by the Iraqi minister of Health to return to help create a decentralized open market health care system akin to those he studied in the U.S.
“It was my dream that we do something like you have here in the United States,” he said. “I said ‘Let me work on that dream.’ Now we (take) the first step to have this dream be a truth.”
The new college of Public Health would be the training ground for an independent health care system, he said, taking the responsibility away from overburdened government hospitals by teaching Iraqi residents about privatization, private practice, and general medical and health care administration, including the use of outside vendors to contract work such as removing biological waste and other concerns.
“This is long-term work,” Dr. Jamil added. “We want to put together budgets and steps. The agreement is, before the end of this year, to have a plan, and beginning in 2013, take the first steps to implement the project and train the (Iraqi) staff,” he said.Dr. al Kazzaz also hopes the visit will open the door for additional cross-disciplinary partnerships.