CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — For more than a decade, Iraqi doctors have been denied medical expertise and technology because of Sadaam Hussein and U.N. sanctions. Now, U.S. doctors are tending to their Iraqi counterparts, which has a professional and personal meaning for a doctor at University of North Carolina Hospitals.
Dr. Maha Alattar, a neurologist, fled Iraq 22 years ago. She recently returned with a team of nearly 30 American doctors, who led a conference aimed at helping Iraqi medical specialists get back on track.
"There was a special smell in the air that just came back," she said. "The Iraqi physicians were really happy to see that for the first time in 13 years since the sanctions, they are now able to reconnect with the medical community and catch up."
Alattar said the Iraqi medical community has a lot of catching up to do.
"The equipment is 30 to 40 years old. It's unbelievable what these people have to go through. You walk down the ward and the beds are old and cranky," she said.
However, to Alattar's surprise, Baghdad itself is already catching up.
"There was a lot of commerce going on -- a lot of restaurants, nice restaurants. People were going out and having a good time," she said.
The U.S. Agency for International Development paid for the trip. Alattar said the American doctors will be in e-mail communication with the Iraqi doctors. She plans to return to the country later this year.