Doctors at UCSF Help Victims of War from Home

The war in Iraq is spurring more Bay Area physicians and activists to help treat civilians wounded in the conflict.At the University of California, San Francisco, a three-year-old Iraqi boy was flown in New Year’s Eve to begin treatment for his hearing loss after a U.S. missile struck near his home in the Iraqi city of Baqouba.

Mustafa Ghazwan, who lost his hearing on June 17, 2007, is scheduled to undergo reparative ear surgery and several months of rehabilitation in order to repair his ability to speak and interact.

"His brain will have to be totally retrained," said Dan Lowenstein, a neurologist and member of the Iraq Action Group at UCSF, where Mustafa will receive a donated cochlear implant in an operation on Jan. 17.

Activists say that young Mustafa’s situation underscores the need for adequate medical care in the Middle East.

“There are hundreds of thousands of children like this, and these parents really want American citizens to be aware of what’s happening,” said Ann Cothran, national coordinator of the non-profit No More Victims who helped bring over Mustafa and his family.

Lowenstein says that students and staff at UCSF are also aware of the critically growing need for good healthcare in the cities plagued by war.

“We never planned appropriately for the needs of the civilians that would be impacted. We know from direct communication with physicians and others that the healthcare system [in Iraq] has been devastated.”

Lowenstein says that doctors here are assisting Iraqi physicians who may lack the technical ability to care for their patients, many with special war related needs. He says that technology makes it possible to diagnose conditions from afar without going to the war zone where many physicians have fled and the health care system is in shambles.

“USF, I’m really proud to say, that many physicians, students and staff members have been involved in thinking about ways we can provide more information to people to understand that the health effects of the war have been.”

In addition to assisting the shipment of medical supplies, UCSF physicians, students and staff mounted a book drive to collect sorely needed material for Iraqi doctors who are slowly returning to their country.

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