progress through opportunity
I ssue #2
F ebruary 2009
Telling Tales
Read first hand accounts of what
it’s like to practice in Iraq.
in the Sands
The role of writing in the history and the future of Iraq
I ssue #2 • F e b 2009
From the President...
With a new edition of SIMA: Prospect, we bring to you a new fresh-faced committee
ready to cement the achievements of the outgoing team, whilst constantly trying to
further the SIMA cause.
Written in the Sands of Time
The partnerships that have been launched, must be nurtured, the projects developed
and our efforts maximised to bring about as much progress as possible. Opportunities
offered will be welcomed with open arms, as we continue to work to achieve our aims
both in Iraq and the UK, to the best of our abilities.
In The Spotlight
Mesopotamian Medicine: A Brief Introduction
The Will to Live
Mind, Body or Soul?
Building for the Future
Furthermore, this committee is looking towards a more inclusive outlook on our membership. It has not escaped our notice that SIMA is still considered by many to be
an exclusively ‘medical’ organisation. This is simply not so. The nature of medical
practice, relies on effective specialisation and teamwork, a concept we hope to carry
through our society as well.
SIMA on the World Stage
Rural Medicine: Zanzibar
Canada: Special Care Dentistry
Workshop: Writing an article
Iraq Relief Networking
SIMA: North
SIMA: Wales
SIMA: London Health Awareness Campaign
[email protected]
Editorial Team
-Yasmin Al-Asady
Georgina Butterworth
SIMA: World
Ofcourse, none of this can be achieved without your help and support, and so we hope
that we can all come together as a collective body to bring about change; a change in
attitudes, a change in behavior, ultimately a change for the better.
In light of the current economic climate, and the continued growth and expansion of
the organisation, SIMA is also looking towards its financial future. We are looking to
establish financial partners that will provide us with a relative degree of security required to continue to improve the service we offer.
Yasmin Al-Asady
Lois Durrant
• [email protected] •
Written in the
Sands of Time
Yasmin Al-Asady
“Knowledge is light,
Ignorance is darkness,
Knowledge began here”
These are the words written in the open
book featured on the cover of this edition of
SIMA: Prospect. The picture was drawn as part
of a ‘Culture for All’ outreach project running
in Al-Redha primary school, Baghdad. The
children were asked to draw something that
they felt represented Iraq, and young Abbas
Qassim responded with the image you see
before you.1 Through the eyes of this young
man we gain an appreciation of Iraq’s illustrious
history as the cradle of civilisation; home to the
‘House of Wisdom’ and countless scientific and
mathematical breakthroughs, it stood firm as
a longstanding hub of intellectual debate and
A friend of mine once told me that I should
stop living in the past, that I should look past
the history of Iraq and judge it by it’s merits,
or rather lack of, in the present day; I prefer
Abbas’ approach.
History is more than just past events. I
remember being naïve enough not to study
history for my GCSEs for this very reason.
What could I possibly learn from studying
the past? Ironically, I found myself immersed
in the study of the History of Medicine at
university. Armed with this knowledge, I feel
much better placed to understand why the
scientific world is where it is today, how we got
here, and consequently how it may progress.
Understanding the past, allows us to look
deeper into the present day, and even project
into the future as to the number of different
opportunities through which we can progress.
Professor Jim Al-Khalili’s recent
documentary, Science & Islam, maps the roots
of scientific advancement that lie in modern
day Iraq, the centre of academic progress and
endeavour during the Middle Ages. However,
this was by no means the beginning of Iraq and
Throughout history, the land that makes up
modern day Iraq has been a hotbed of wonder.
Babylonian curiosity led to an emphasis
on observation to complement the natural
philosophy of the Ancient Greeks that remained
theoretical in essence. Alongside, this new
emphasis on observation, the introduction
of ‘professional writers’ that continued the
production of cuneiform tablets, documented
the scholarly endeavours of the time. The fact
that these tablets were made of clay and thus
imperishable provides a direct insight into
scholarly activities more than two millennia ago.
Moving forward in time to medieval Iraq, the
quest for knowledge continues. The Abbasid
ruler, Al-Ma’mun, had high hopes for his newly
captured city, Baghdad. He is said to have had
a vivid and life-changing dream, in which he
was instructed by Aristotle, to seek knowledge
and enlightenment. What followed was what is
now known as ‘The Translation Movement’, AlMa’mun set out to acquire as much knowledge
as he could. Seeing as the majority of this
knowledge remained in the ancient texts
of the Greeks, Al-Ma’mun commissioned
several scholars to initiate a mass translation
of all important texts into Arabic. Similar to
the cuneiform tablets of the Babylonians, the
recent invention and importation of paper from
China, allowed this mass communication of
Wikimedia Commons
I ssu e #2 • F eb 2009
ideas and observations, both old and new,
throughout the academic world. The importance
of the communication of ideas and the formal
documentation of knowledge has therefore,
clearly been recognised for centuries. In fact,
without writing, the foundation of much of
modern day science may never have been
developed into the laws and theories that define
the scientific boundaries within which we live
and work.
For more information, ‘Science & Islam’, is a great
introduction into the history of science.2
Alongside the role of writing in the
advancement of science, documenting one’s
thoughts and emotions has also been linked to
better mental health. In the field of Psychology,
much research has been performed with
regards to the importance of discussing
experiences, both positive and negative, in
order to develop a coherent ‘sense of self’.
Several therapeutic approaches in cases of
post-traumatic stress disorder utilise expression
of emotions and ideas, as a form of coming
to terms with their experiences, be it in the
form of writing a diary, the use of illustration,
sport or music. The art of writing is thus not
only a means to academic success, but also
psychological well-being. In light of Iraq’s recent
history, the role writing may occupy in the
advancement of both the country’s scientific
and non-scientific populace is boundless.
Following on from our inaugural first edition
of SIMA: Prospect, this issue looks to honour
the writing tradition that has played such an
important role in the quest for knowledge from
as far back as Ancient Babylon, through the
translation movement and the years of scientific
endeavour that followed.
Alice Clarke’s article gives us just a
snapshot of the importance of the development
of Cuneiform script in informing the world of the
early medical advancements of Mesopotamia.
We also have personal accounts from three
Doctors practising in Iraq. The first, by Dr Farah
Baha, describes some of the emotional aspects
of her experience as a paediatric house officer.
In a similar vein, Dr Nabil Al-Khalisi has
written an informative piece regarding the
difficulties doctors face in tackling mental health
in Iraq, an area of particular importance in the
rehabilitation of Iraq and its population in this
post-war period.
The final feature article is written by Dr
Zeena Mohammed, who talks about her visit to
the UK as part of the British-Arab exchange, the
lessons learnt, and their potential applications in
Alongside the elective accounts and updates
sections that are carried through from issue #1,
we have also introduced the editor’s workshop,
a short article on any subject of your choice.
The first in this series is a guide to writing
articles, by none other than our very own senior
editor, Georgina Butterworth.
Throughout time therefore one can highlight
several turning points that define the importance
of writing. From the revered status of the scribe
in early Babylonia, through to the eminence
of the scholar in medieval Iraq, and role of the
printing press in shifting the intellectual centre
west, to welcome in the European renaissance,
one is constantly reminded just how powerful
the written word can be.
The written word is forever immortalised.
It can demonstartes conviction in one’s ideas,
convey weight to one’s opinion, opening up
endless possibilities and dreams. For some,
the effect may be immediate, for others, literary
prowess may not be appreciated for some time,
but rest assured, with the documentation of
thought, the power to effect change can only
Upon reading these articles, we hope that
you embrace the spirit of writing, and are
encouraged to share your own research and
ideas in future editions of SIMA: Prospect. Let
us learn from the sands of time, to encourage
discussion and debate in order to rekindle the
scientific crown that Iraq once wore so proudly.
Mesopotamian Medicine:
A brief introduction
Alice Clarke
The oldest medical texts belong to the Old
Babylonian period, around 2,000 BC. The bestknown and most detailed text of this period is
the Diagnostic Handbook, written by Esagilkin-apli of Borsippa. This text refers in detail to
methods of diagnosis, including physiological
examination of the patient, prognosis, and
recommended prescriptions. Also notable is
the importance given to empirical processes
and logical assessment, outlining how rules
of observation lead to diagnosis. This text
describes a range of illness, catalogued
from head to foot; how to diagnose them and
their prognosis. It also thoroughly details the
therapeutic response to diagnosis- dressings,
creams and medication. Perhaps the most
notable feature of the Handbook is the
establishment of axioms in the text, some
resembling views in contemporary medicine;
that physical examination and assessment
of symptoms can ascertain the disease of
Much of the surviving medical instruction is
in Akkadian2, and most of the surviving tablets
document prescriptions; effectively recipes
for medicines to be made for the patient, with
some reference also to incantation and other
related magical practices. These medications
were generally made from herbal ingredients,
to be taken either orally or rectally, although
who administered the end product remains
unclear from the documents. In addition to the
index of texts detailing prescriptions are tablets
cataloguing plants and other natural products
with medicinal uses, however these are less
informative about method. The texts however
provide, as well as details of medicinal products,
methods for anaesthesia. The treatments
described would undoubtedly be very painful
the patient, how it may develop and the likely
prognosis on the patient’s recovery.
The text is also notable as it describes
diagnosis as being the role of the priest, with
the prescription being produced by a physician.
This approach to diagnosis however does not
take into the account the importance of the
role played by individual medical history in
diagnosis, for example while there is detailed
writing about kidney disease in some texts
there seems to be no reference to prior illness
in the diagnostic criteria. In this case the text
describes the symptom of swollen bladder
and erection as a sign of kidney disorder in
males, and prescribes drinking a combination
of dog’s tongue with natural seeds and resins
in either milk or beer. Texts also describe how
to unblock the urethra by blowing into the penis
with a bronze pipe, however it is not always
straightforward to ascertain the condition in
question or how the instrument may have been
More interesting to the historian in this
situation is the process of diagnosis, as many
tablets propose a physical complaint (such as
the appearance of the penis in a patient with
kidney dysfunction), followed by investigation
(of the appearance of fluids for example), then
a prescription of some sort.
in many cases, such as forcing salves into the
urethra, and so the tablets also provide methods
to induce drunkenness and therefore lessened
sensation in the patient. Despite the richness of
diagnostic and educational texts there appears
to be little textual evidence for knowledge of
physiology or any surgical practices.
Another diagnostic resource is the
Sakikku (‘All Diseases’), dating from 718 BC
to 612BC. These tablets were discovered at
Urfa in Southern Turkey, and others were not
found by excavation but have been linked to
the same series. The tablets are written in
Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian3 text and
explore epilepsy in great detail. Referred to by
different names across the tablets the subject is
nonetheless clear, and therefore constitute the
earliest known writing about the condition. The
texts display the close relationship between
diagnostic practices we may identify with today,
and magical religious beliefs that we may only
understand as part of the larger corpus of
cuneiform documentation. We see this in the
manner that the texts describe investigation
and diagnosis, but in order to ascertain the
archaeologists and historians to gain a
detailed insight into many aspects of the
lives of people living in Ancient Babylonia.
Surviving texts also provide information
about the complex level of study in medicine
of the period, which detail disorders
from kidney infections to migraine. These
texts not only refer to a wide range of
physical disorders and illnesses but also
the diagnostic methods used, enabling
historians to understand not only the
methodology involved but the relationship
between medicine and religion.
of this was the Assyrian king Esarhaddon,
whose illness was extensively documented
through letters passing between court officials
and physicians. These descriptions refer to
fever, weakness and stiffness, among other
symptoms, however this may only point towards
types of disorder and many theories as to what
the modern diagnosis might have been exist.
Wikimedia Commons
In the Spotlight
I ssu e #2 • F eb 2009
While most of these sources are texts meant to
educate physicians there is also a great amount
of documented medical knowledge in the form
of letters. Perhaps the most famous example
The Ancient East...
presence of ghosts and spirits which may
‘seize’ the patient. Each epileptic episode is
understood then as the seizing and release of
the patient by a demon, seemingly portrayed
as a particular menace to children and young
brides (who the demons envy). These texts
are primarily explanatory and diagnostic but
less prescriptive about treatment, referring to
salves, enemas and charms, perhaps allowing
a certain amount of credibility to arise from the
inevitable recovery of some patients.
The great relevance of magical belief in
Mesopotamian medicine should not ignored,
as modern attempts to congratulate physicians
of the period on ‘correct practice’ are clearly
anachronistic in ignoring the premises of the
diagnosis. A diagnosis of a condition we may
call epilepsy from a case history of the period
may well accord to a diagnosis that may be
made by a practitioner today, however the term
in the original text is closely bound to a system
of belief in spirits which differs greatly from our
modern conception of epilepsy.
An example of this occurs in descriptions
of epileptic symptoms, as the same phrases
both describe the appearance of the eyes, and
how this is brought about by the descent of a
demon. The advanced methodology we see in
these texts is notable, but to separate this from
its context leads us to misunderstand not only
the origins of this medical tradition but to deny
a great part of the historical understanding that
the great wealth of written sources affords us.
Babylonian medicine was not lost when
its related civilization ended around the year
300AD but arguably was absorbed into the
Hippocratic corpus4 in the form of aphorisms
of types of disorder, showing its continuation in
the later civilisations of the area. The cuneiform
tablets which document these practices inform
modern historians about the medicine of
the time, but long before this served as the
educational tools of contemporary physicians.
Close analysis of the language may elucidate
nuances of meaning, especially where referring
to distinctions within types of disorder or
categories of religious belief, but it is equally
important in gaining a clearer understanding
of how the development of writing forms over
this long history enabled the accumulation of
medical knowledge.
Discuss this article and more
on our online forums
Alice Clarke is a student at the History and
Philiosophy of Science department at the University
of Cambridge.
Markham J. Geller and Simon L. Cohen : Kidney and
Urinary Tract Disease in Ancient Babylonia, with Translations
of the Cuneiform Sources, Kidney International, Vol. 47 (1995).
H. F. J. Horstmanshoff, Marten Stol, Cornelis Tilburg: Magic
and Rationality in Ancient Near Eastern and Graeco-Roman
Medicine, Brill Publishers (2004).
SIMA: Prospect Issue #3
‘The Multi-Disciplinary Approach to
Marten Stol, Epilepsy in Babylonia, Brill Publishers (1993).
J. V. Kinnier Wilson and E. H. Reynolds: Translation and
Analysis of a Cuneiform Text Forming Part of a Babylonian
Treatise on Epilepsy, Medical History 34: 185-198 (1990).
Clarification of terms...
1: Cuneiform is considered one of the oldest known forms of writing, and originates with pictorial representations of
the 30th century BC.This form of writing was made by impressing wedge-shaped markings on clay tablets or in stone.
2: Akkadian is the Semitic language of Ancient Mesopotamia. It emerged from cuneiform with later modifications
based on Sumerian.
3: Neo-Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian both date from the period 1000–600 BCE, emerging from the prior Middle
Assyrian but disappearing after the introduction of early Greek.
4:The Hippocratic corpus originates in Ancient Greece, and contains works of early medicine by a number of (largely
unknown) authors.The work was likely produced by students of Hippocrates, and documents medical practice in a number
of forms, from case histories to philosophy and including the Hippocratic Oath.
SEPT 2009
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The will to
Dr Farah Baha
I came to know her in my last ‘on call’;
actually she was my first patient that day. A
23-month-old little girl with messy red hair,
sad blue eyes, a funny rounded nose and
blue lips gasping for life.
She was laying in the ‘oxygen room’ as
the workers here refer to it. I find the ‘death
room’ more appropriate, as I have yet to see a
single critical case survive that cold space once
To walk out alive from that specific room
would be a miracle in itself, with these dark
old walls and the sloppy six beds they contain.
If those beds could speak they would tell
countless tales of children who passed away
on them, to the sound of the tears of a million
mothers’ broken hearts.
A standard intensive care unit (ICU), in
the UK for example, would ordinarily contain
ventilators, cardiac monitoring devices, pulse
oximeters, various sizes of laryngoscopes, ABG
analysis facilities and a crash cart equipped
with life saving medications.
Our ‘death room’ contains oxygen containers
and miserable aspirators, in the hope that these
will be enough to save a sick child. Our (ICU)
room is clearly severely under-equipped from
the standards mentioned above. I sometimes
wonder why they call it the emergency room
while it looks like all the other “regular” rooms.
10 a
Dr Farah Baha
I ssu e #2 • F eb 2009
record her Oxygen Saturation rate (SpO2). I
knew I had to do something. Years of medical
training, and all I could do was put her in a ‘knee
- chest position’ to improve her condition. That
was the only thing I could do.
Despite of our miserably depleted facilities,
Shnow was able to survive the first six days
of her admission. She recovered from her
hypercyanotic spell with nobody to thank,
nothing other than her sheer will to live.
She was like a tiny kitten held so tightly in
the arms of her mother, who, with tear-filled
eyes, could only utter ‘she will get better, right?’
The fifth day of Shnow’s admission remains
indelible in my mind. I entered ‘the room’ and
saw her wearing a cute red jumper, with her
amazing straight red hair combed so neatly;
holding a toy in her hand.
Shnow was born with a congenital heart
defect, ‘Tetralogy of Fallot’ a condition named
after the French physician Étienne-Louis Arthur
Fallot, who described the four defects forming
this anomaly, namely: a ventricular septal
defect, overriding of Aorta, pulmonary valve
stenosis and right ventricular hypertrophy. It
is the most common congenital cyanotic heart
disease resulting in the mixing of oxygenated
and de-oxygenated blood within the heart
chambers. As a result, the patient presents
cyanosed i.e. bluish discoloration of the skin
and mucous membranes and short of breath.
Here in Iraq, out of necessity, we have
learned to expand upon the use of every piece
of equipment. Not only do our tools need to
perform their assigned tasks, but they have to
handle a few extra jobs as well. For example,
Nasogastric (NG) tubes, intended for feeding,
delivering medication and gastric lavage have
had to be modified to work as drains and
aspirators. Then of course there is the Pulse
Oximeter, which we are considered lucky to
have, a dangerously inconsistent device that
goes on and off without any reason. This
inconsistency makes the recording of vital signs
a challenge to doctors- especially when these
seconds or minutes are crucial to someone’s
Fortunately, advances in medicine and
surgery mean that patients suffering with this
condition can be effectively cured with one or
two stage surgery. Unfortunately, this requires
resources that we simply don’t have here in
Iraq. What a shame! One of the richest countries
in the world, yet it cannot provide the minimal
requirement for a decent life.
If you were to peer into the ‘oxygen room’,
you would be forgiven for thinking that perhaps
we were living in the dark ages, prior to the
discovery of electricity. We are like bats in
the day light- we function (if you consider it a
function) by intuition, relying on physical skills
and (for my religious friends) by God’s help!
What a shame! For the country which was
once the cradle of civilization.
Children here are dying for no good reason,
rather, ridiculous reasons such as: insufficient
maintain respiration and as ever, medications.
For years, I read and memorized hundreds of
drug names and how they act in my textbooks,
yet the cabinet at my hospital stocks no more
than twelve different drugs. Twelve. And yet,
this facility is considered one of the best in
Iraq. Cases are referred to us from all over the
country for treatment.
These are conditions we face when
attempting to treat children like Shnow. One
day, Shnow was laying on one of those beds,
cuddled in her mother’s lap wearing an oxygen
mask and moaning weakly. I had never seen
such an extent of bluish discoloration before;
the tip of her nose, her little innocent toes, her
fingers even her eyelids, were blue.
Her vitals were worrying. The pulse oximeter
kept turning on and off making it impossible to
I offered my hand to shake hers to salute
the courage she had displayed to overcome her
spell, but she did not give me her hand back.
Her mother told me ‘this hand hurts her- it was
the site of the canula, try the other hand?’ I did
as instructed, Shnow offered me a shake back.
She put her tiny blue hand in mine. Her
fingers looked like drumsticks, severe clubbing
as a result of her defect, yet her nails, ironically,
were adorned with a red nail polish- a sign of
her continuing desire to live normally and to feel
beautiful. Her nails were innocently messy (you
know how awful they look when a child insists
on painting their own nails). Such a painful
contrast! On one hand, a crawling illness trying
to suck life out of her and, on the other hand, an
unyielding will to live adorned in a strange form
of elegance, a childish class. Shnow proudly
wore her ‘red polish’ as if to say, “I do have the
right to live”.
Shnow’s mother gave me permission to take
a photo of her daughter. I kept trying to make
her laugh or at least smile but I failed despite
making all the funny faces I knew. Instead, she
gave me a look as if to say “for what reason
should I smile?!”
Shnow passed away on 24/02/2008 after having
another, fatal, hypercyanotic attack.
Dr Farah Baha MBChB is a House Officer at the
Sulaimani General Hospital.
Mind, Body
or Soul?
Dr Nabil Al-Khalisi
12 a
Being a psychiatric patient in Iraq means
only one thing “an endless misfortune”.
Such patients are facing many challenges
on multiple levels making their healing
process almost impossible. There are social,
medical & financial issues that are really
influencing the outcome of such patients’
treatment & prognosis. Discussion of these
factors really makes me feel sad because
the final image of the whole process is a
very gloomy one.
suffering a hard one; it makes psychiatrists
feel unsatisfied all the time because all of their
intensive study and thorough examination goes
in vain. Looking in both directions, the patient in
many times is never benefited from treatment
and has no faith in his physician’s abilities and
considers treatment as an experimental one
or something like that; while the doctor thinks
that treating such patients is a waste of time
because they have neither compliance nor
understanding for their own diseases.
Medically, Psychiatry as a medical specialty
is an unwanted one. Only doctors with bad
records & low scores study such a specialty. As
a matter of fact, Psychiatry is a qualification free
medical specialty, you just need to apply for it
and you have a 100% chance to be accepted.
This situation of low standards regarding this
field of study made the Iraqi Psychiatrists of low
competitiveness and productivity because of
lack of proper drive and sense of competition.
Financially, the private sector is never
willing to invest in mental health. In Iraq it is
a cloudy area that no one is happy putting his
money in it. To be honest, such an investment is
a real waste of time and resources in the short
run. People here consider a psychiatric illness
like OCD a disease that entails prayer rather
than treatment so that nobody is willing to pay
a real sum of cash in exchange for treatment.
This renders such investments deficient and
incompatible with financial success.
On the other hand we cannot blame the
physicians only; the patient has a key role in
the process. The patient is a top ignorant one;
never sticks to neither an instruction nor any set
of medications. The patient can not understand
that many psychiatric medications can not show
any benefit only after 2 weeks of continuous
treatment, so he gives it up and has a relapse
and considers the medication a curse instead
of blaming his ignorance; then he switches
to a new medication and so on. This vicious
cycle makes any effort to alleviate patients`
The patient also has his own set of financial
dilemmas. An ordinary Iraqi patient can barely
afford $2 as a single payment for cheap forged
antibiotic course for treatment of a chest
infection. No one can persuade a patient with
chronic depression to buy Prozac ($4 per
Packet) for life. This will be a heavy burden on
the patient’s family. Eventually the same old
story repast itself time after time as I witnessed
with my own eyes ; the patient comes asking
for help , he has depression, he is given Prozac
for 6 months maximum , then he omit the
maintenance dose by himself either because of
lack of proper funding or because of ignorance
, then the patient comes having a relapse and
asks for treatment again and a again and this
really makes people’s life here as a family a sad
one especially if having a psychiatric patient as
a family member.
Delux Photography
I ssu e #2 • F eb 2009
Social discussion of this topic is incredibly
distressing. It seems that nobody here wants to
help psychiatric patients even themselves. The
whole society is in denial state for the time being
regarding such disease entities. A regular Iraqi
family can easily consider their son drunk all the
time or inhabited by an evil soul but they can
not imagine even for a short while that he might
simply be schizophrenic. Psychiatric illness in
the middle east is considered a social stigma;
this makes the patient’s family bear a double
burden, the burden of treatment obstacles
and the sense of shame that is hunting every
family member. The entire society prefers
to quarantine such patients instead of reincorporating them again after treatment, they
are all considered to be scary and aggressive
and unpredictable even after they are cured, no
one will value their abilities or their talents, no
one can offer them a job or accept him/her as
a future husband/wife. In other words, they are
less human than others; they are more close to
an alien or an animal than a human being.
As part of my investigation I visited Ibn
Rushud Hospital (the grand mental health
institute in Iraq). I heard very scary tales about
patient’s abuse and neglect. ECT is done under
simple sedation instead of GA. Female patients
are raped very often simply because no one will
believe them when they complain, the society
considers them totally insane and can never
regain their sanity, and also nobody cares
for a psychiatric patient when she is raped
because she became less human than others
as I explained formerly. Patients were starved
to death in many instances, especially during
war times and during the embargo. As a final
conclusion this happened because the Middle
Eastern societies including the Iraqi society
considers such patient less human and they
can be abused, manipulated or neglected with
no remorse.
Lastly I think that this issue is a complex one
indeed and it has multiple factors. Ignorance,
poverty & lack of adequate expertise are the
main players in this sad game. The health system
as a whole should be re-evaluated in order to
achieve real steps forward. In my opinion, no
serious action has been taken in area and so
the screams of such victimized patients will
continue to be ignored again and again. I am
aware that I may seem to be pessimistic but
sadly, this is the mere truth, witnessed with my
own eyes.
Hopefully, as time passes by, things will be
better. Someday.
Dr Nabil Al-Khalisi MBChB, is a House Officer at the
Medical City Complex, Baghdad
[email protected]
I ssu e #2 • F eb 2009
for the future
Dr Zeena Mohammed
In the autumn of 2008, British-Arab
Exchanges (BAX) in association with the
Kubba Foundation, hosted the visit of six
young professionals and their mentor from
Iraq to the UK.
experiences, challenges and cultural heritages,
with a particular focus on developing strategies,
leadership skills and collaboration to support
the work of reconstruction in Iraq now and in
the years ahead.
British-Arab Exchanges (BAX) has more
than 30 years’ experience of arranging exchange
visits, with the aim of building trust and respect
between future decision-makers of the Arab
countries and the West. Over these years BAX
has arranged exchange visits involving young
people from the Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and
Sudan, Britain and other European countries.
The purpose of the visits has been to create
and maintain a network of bridge-builders,
train future opinion-leaders, provide space
for dialogue, and focus on shared moral and
spiritual values.
My Trip...
One day, I was surprised by my supervisor
in the hospital where I work who told me about a
trip to London with the BAX exchange scheme.
In what seemed no time at all, I found myself at
Baghdad airport with my new friends, ready to
depart on a new stage of our lives.
The specific purpose of this visit was to build
links of trust and understanding between young
Iraqi professionals and their counterparts in the
UK. The Iraqi delegates and their British hosts
were encouraged to learn from each others’
14 a
It was a truly joyful experience that has
definitely changed my attitude towards the
future. All of the negativity that I had has now
been replaced with hope and a new insistence
to change the outlook for my country, just as
our hosts did in Northern Ireland.
On returning to London, we were given
the opportunity to discuss the issues we face
in Iraq with a number of different people, from
different aspects of society. We, being a diverse
group of professionals, were able to pool our
thoughts and understanding to address a range
of projects and how we can each contribute to
forwarding our society towards a brighter future.
Due to our unforeseen extended stay in
Lebanon, our time in the UK was limited.
Nevertheless, these ten days were filled with
so much, so many facts learnt, and as many
dreams created, as we turned a new page in
out lives.
I would like to thank BAX and the Kubba
Foundation for everything they have done for
us and all the new friends we have made who
were and continue to be so welcoming. With our
newfound hope, I am sure that we will soon lay
a new cornerstone upon which we can build the
future of Iraq. So help me, my friends, to look to
our future and restore the cradle of civilisation.
Dr Zeena Mohammed is an Obstetrics and
Gynaecology SHO at Hillah General Hospital
Unfortunately, nothing is as simple as it
should be, and we found ourselves stranded in
Lebanon as we waited for our visas to come
through. Despite the trouble and frustration this
caused us, we found that our friendship became
stronger, and once ten days had passed, we
had our visas ready to embark on our project
to learn what exactly is needed to rebuild Iraq.
After arriving in London, we were immediately
taken to Northern Ireland, visiting Belfast and
Derry. On the way, I remember wondering
about what we were going to experience, of all
the bloody history that we knew about these
places, what were we going to see and find?
Dr Zeena Mohammed
The Kubba a non-profit, nongovernmental organisation that promotes the
social development of the Iraqi people and
supports the rebuilding of a strong and viable
civil society in a land ravaged by war, violence
and dictatorship. The Foundation supports
educational projects that directly benefit the
people of Iraq, regardless of religion, ethnicity
or background.
We were then taken to the Clonard Monastery
where we met Mr Jim Lynn, and the Deputy
First Minister Mr Martin McGuinness. Clonard
was an amazing place to visit. The Monastery
has been instrumental in the peace process
in Northern Ireland. Often considered as the
cradle of the peace process, every breath I took
felt at peace. Mr McGuinness, also shared his
experiences of Iraq with us, drawing parallels
between the peace process in Northern Ireland
and the progress that can be made in Iraq.
Yasmin Al-Asady
through photos in disbelief that we were looking
at the same place… It was definitely Derry.
In fact, this was just the beginning of the
great trip. On our morning in Derry, we met with
a group of activists who had given everything
they had to stop the violence, and re-build their
city. We heard them tell their stories, and flicked
Visiting the Derry Peace Mural...
I ssu e #1 • J uly 2008
SIMA: World
continues to biridge
connections between students in Iraq and
around the world.
Our Iraq Relief networking evenings aim to bring
together like-minded organisations to facilitate a coordinated effort to meet the rehabilitation needs of Iraq.
Check our website for updates
page 26
Zahra Al-Timimi
describes her experience
of specialist dentistry in
page 21
Marwa Al-Seaidy shares
her experience of the
contrasts she saw on
her trip to Zanzibar
SIMA: UK continues to
Established in London, Wales and the
North of England, regional SIMA groups are
furthering the SIMA cause. SIMA: Wales have
shown great initiative in collabortaing with Cardiff
University student union to bring SIMA to Wales.
SIMA: London have also embarked on the first of
many outreach projects in the form of the SIMA
Health Awareness Campaign.
page 27
16 a
page 18
Wikimedia Commons
I ssu e #2 • F eb 2009
Rural Medicine
Z a n z i ba r
Marwa Al-Seaidy
I spent the duration of my elective in the
Mnazi Mmoja hospital in Zanzibar’s largest
settlement, Stone Town. It is a government
run, 500+ bed hospital covering a range of
specialities from paediatrics to ophthalmology.
Unexpectedly, I was pleasantly surprised by my
first impressions. The hospital site comprises
several different buildings; a collection of white
washed, red-roofed, rectangular blocks backing
out onto the stunning sandy white beaches that
Zanzibar is famous for. The hospital grounds
also boasted towering palm trees, a chaotic
thoroughfare of ambulances and a public
car park, housing several new, among the
disused, tractor jeeps decorated with the logos
of international charities. Hoards of people
gathered in the hospital grounds added to the
hustle and bustle of the hospital, which seemed
to double as a focal point for the community.
Combined with the midday sun and perfect
blue skies, nothing could prepare me for what I
would encounter inside.
or blankets, the mattresses often stained with
blood and grime. The overhead fans were
only switched on at night, leaving the patients
suffering with the almost unbearable African
heat during the day. Attempts at sanitisation
often consisted of a basin with a leaky tap and
rationed hand-wash stagnating in the doctors’
mess, which conveniently also served as the
ward reception and outpatient clinic. The lack
of medical equipment anywhere highlighted
just how underfunded this hospital was. The
hospital monkey was often found lurking around
the TB clinic and the cat in the maternity ward
didn’t seem to faze anyone.
Some of the team
to see a procession of people carrying a coffin
hurriedly out of the ward.
There was an overwhelming sense of
contrast at Mnazi Mmoja. The natural beauty
of the sun setting over the ocean littered with
romantic dhow sails seen from the back of
the hospital, compared to the suffering of the
patients inside the hospital.
The complete lack of privacy was also
surprising. Even in the maternity ward, which
was probably the best-equipped part of the
hospital, there were no curtains separating the
beds. Vaginal examinations were performed in
front of the whole ward. The labour room was
very basic, with three simple beds, a washbasin
and weighing scales. The babies who didn’t
survive were often left in the corner of the room,
covered by a towel; in fact, it wasn’t uncommon
Most patients at the hospital had advanced
stages of disease with various signs to elicit. The
wards were dominated by cases of TB, malaria,
HIV, heart failure and liver failure to name but
a few. Sadly, these patients were expected to
contribute towards their treatment. For a lucky
handful, there were programmes for treatment
in the US or the Netherlands, however more
often than not, the $2 required for a chest x-ray
was too much for patients to afford.
Most days started at 8.30am with the ward
round. We would follow the team of nurses,
clinical officers (an intermediary between a
nurse and a doctor) and international medical
students on elective as they saw the patients in
turn. The doctor would briefly comment on each
patient and give us the opportunity to examine.
Marwa Al-Seaidy
Despite the open plan and the breeze of
warm air through the ward, the stench of vomit
and other bodily fluids drifting from the collection
of beds was often unbearable. There was a
distinct film of dirt covering all the surfaces.
The patients were lying on beds with no sheets
18 a
Marwa Al-Seaidy
I set off for my elective full of excitement and
apprehension, not knowing what to expect
from this beautiful group of islands just off
the east coast of Tanzania. After a very long
flight from the UK and a ferry journey that
would leave even the most resilient of people
nauseous, I finally made it to Zanzibar in one
The operating theatre at Mnazi Mmoja.
By 11am the ward round was over and we would
go to a clinic such as the HIV clinic or head to
the maternity ward. Other days were spent
observing in theatre, although during my stay
there was a chronic shortage of anaesthesia
leading to the cancellation of all the elective
surgeries. The hospital closed at 2PM, but most
doctors seemed to disappear at 11.00AM
I will never forget the first patient we saw on
my first day, Surrounded by a mass of nursing
students, clinical officers and medical students
on elective, lay a middle aged man, suffering
with cirrhosis of the liver. He had massive
ascites and was clearly uncomfortable. The
doctor supervising us encouraged us all to feel
the fluid thrill and shifting dullness without the
patient’s permission, adding to the patient’s
discomfort. This was my first experience of the
doctor patient relationship in Zanzibar- almost
non-existent. Over the next few days, we would
see the patient on the ward round every morning,
clearly deteriorating every day, yet no action
was being taken. I soon came to realise that
the doctor was simply waiting for the inevitable.
We asked about the possibility of paracentesis
for the patient to make him more comfortable,
but the doctor replied that he would be dead in
I ssu e #2 • F eb 2009
As a medical student in the UK, we are
taught the importance of making patients as
comfortable as possible whatever stage their
illness, so I was horrified by this approach to
patients. Unfortunately during my time there
I saw minimal effort to make patients feel at
ease, even though a few kind words from the
doctor could have made a big difference. The
doctor spoke little Swahili, prodding the patient
when he wanted his attention.
A more positive experience was my trip
to the island of Tumbatu, a remote island
off the northern tip of Zanzibar, where I
accompanied a team of ophthalmologists from
mainland Tanzania, sponsored by Sightsavers
International as part of an ophthalmology
outreach clinic. The poverty-stricken conditions
were apparent from the moment we set foot
on the island. However, despite the children
adorned in their various rags, there was a new
purpose built clinic on the island.
Zahra Al-Timimi
C a na da
S p e c i a l C a r e D e n t i s t ry
More importantly, there are many things to
see and do in Zanzibar and Tanzania: going on
safari and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and I am
very thankful that I had the opportunity to take
part in this elective. I have gained so much from
it that I feel it is my duty to return one day and
give something back to Mnazi Mmoja.
Marwa Al-Seaidy is a final year medical student at
Guy’s King’s and St. Thomas’ Medical School
Left: Tumbatu Island
Below: The opthalmology outreach clinic on Tumbatu Island
Marwa Al-Seaidy
It was clear that the people of Tumbatu
were not used to visitors and many people
came along just to see us. Almost the entire
population of the island were screened for eye
disease and a handful of those who required
surgery were brought back to Mmazi Mmoja for
Overall, it was an eye opening experience
which left me with a much greater appreciation
of the problems faced by hospitals in poverty
stricken countries. I encountered a wide
range of diseases that I had not come across
before in the UK. Although there was limited
hands-on practical experience, all the patients
had various signs to elicit providing a good
opportunity to brush up on examination skills.
The language barrier made it difficult to clerk
patients independently, although there was
usually someone nearby to translate.
20 a
For my elective, I was keen to observe
work in the field of Special care dentistry,
which for me, is the most challenging yet
rewarding branch of dentistry. The institute
I chose to carry out my elective at was
Bloorview Kids Rehab, the largest children’s
rehabilitation hospital in Canada, affiliated
with the University of Toronto.
I came to know about Bloorview through my
late cousin who was an inpatient at the hospital.
The facilities catering for special needs children
are next to nothing, and the staff members’
play an important role in the well-being and
rehabilitation of the children as many of the
patients spend more time at the centre than at
home with their families. My cousin sadly died
this year, but I know that he was provided with
excellent care, and it was because of him that
I chose to undertake my elective at this centre.
The main role of the dental department at
Bloorview, is to provide dental care for children
and adolescents with special needs whose
treatment is best managed in a multidisciplinary
outpatient environment. The conditions treated
at Bloorview range from autism to amputation,
spanning conditions such as cerebral palsy,
acquired brain injury, muscular dystrophy,
epilepsy, spina bifida, arthritis, cleft-lip and
palate, developmental disorders and chronic
conditions that require continuous medical care.
The dental department sees approximately
two thousand patients a year, offering a wide
range of services from paediatrics, orthodontics,
prosthodontics to oral maxillofacial surgery.
My aim was to observe dental work carried
out in special needs children, including: General
Zahra Al-timimi
a few days anyway. Sure enough, he slipped
into hepatic coma and had disappeared from
the ward the following day.
The Bloorview Kids Rehab Centre!
Dentistry, Orthodontics and Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery. I spent a considerable amount of time
attending a Hypodontia Clinic where I was
able to observe a multi-disciplinary approach
in restoring function and aesthetics to patients
with this condition. I spent two weeks shadowing
Dr Robert Carmichael, the Coordinator for
Prosthodontics at Bloorview and Assistant
professor at the University of Toronto, gaining an
insight into the nature of special care dentistry.
Hypodontia is a term used to describe the
lack of one or more permanent teeth. Disruption
of tooth development can be due to genetic or
environmental factors, or a combination of both.
One of the patients I saw at the clinic was a six
year old boy missing eight upper deciduous
Another condition that was common amongst
the patients at Bloorview is Amelogenesis
Imperfecta, (AI); a group of developmental
conditions, which affects the structure and
clinical appearance of enamel of all or nearly all
the teeth in a more or less equal manner. The
enamel may be hypoplastic, hypomineralised or
both and so affected teeth are often sensitive,
discoloured and prone to disintegration. AI
may show autosomal dominant, autosomal
recessive, sex-linked and sporadic inheritance
patterns. Diagnosis can be made based on
the family history, pedigree plotting and clinical
observation. The condition affects function and
can cause discomfort but may be managed by
early vigorous intervention, both preventively
and restoratively, with treatment continued
throughout childhood and into adult life.
An 18 year old patient presented with AI
Hypomaturation type, autosomal recessive.
Her main complaint was the fear of losing her
22 a
One of the more complex cases I saw involved
a 30 year old patient presenting with a double
cleft palate. Cleft lip/palate not only affects
facial form but also has significant functional
consequences, affecting the patient’s ability to
eat, speak, and breathe. Rehabilitation involves
a multidisciplinary approach and must be staged
appropriately with the patient’s development.
The patient had chosen not to have corrective
surgery for the palatal defect but elected to
receive an implant-retained prosthesis. The
treatment options given to her were therefore:
edentulate and place an implant retained
prosthesis or retain the posterior teeth and place
implants after bone graft surgery.
Zahra Al-timimi
against stresses caused by masticatory forces.
The definitive treatment plan was to provide full
mouth all-ceramic crowns in order to restore
aesthetics and function.
Discolouration in patient with Amelogenesis Imperfecta (AI)
The patient expressed wishes to retain
her teeth and opted for the second, more
conservative option.
sociable and very welcoming. I was lucky
enough to visit Niagara Falls, which is always
an amazing experience. Also, each summer
the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) is
held in Toronto and is the largest annual fair in
Canada. I had a brilliant time seeing live shows,
international stalls (representing every part of
the world) and of course, the petting zoo. The
Bata Museum is also a must-see, housing some
of the world’s most iconic shoes.
It is not unusual to see patients with a desire
to retain their teeth regardless of the quality/
appearance, as many people regard the loss of
teeth a sign of ageing and are worried about the
consequences following tooth loss.
Aside from the clinical aspect of my elective, I
took this opportunity to explore Canada. This was
my third visit to the country and my impression
has not changed except to improve each time. It
is a beautiful country and the people are friendly,
I am very grateful to Dr Carmichael for
allowing me to observe him and other members
of staff at Bloorview Dental Clinic; they are truly
brilliant at their jobs. The clinical work I saw
was awe inspiring and innovative. They make
a big difference to the lives of the children at
the hospital, and to their families. I hope to visit
them again in the future, hopefully this time as a
qualified dentist!
Zahra Al-Timimi is a final year dentistry student at
Guy’s King’s and St. Thomas’ Medical School
Acrylic prosthesis of the upper central incisors
to treat a patient with cleft palate
Zahra Al-timimi
teeth with age. Due to the brittle nature of the
enamel, her posterior teeth were crowned in
order to protect the remaining tooth tissue
Zahra Al-timimi
(primary) teeth and seven lower deciduous teeth.
Radiographic examination revealed missing
permanent dentition. The primary concern was
appearance and function, as well as a speech
impediment. The treatment plan therefore
consisted of constructing an upper and lower
acrylic partial denture as a short term measure
to restore form and function. The acrylic teeth
on the denture were made to be spaced in order
to mimic the normal deciduous dentition. As the
patient grows older, the denture will be replaced
so that the teeth reflect his chronological age.
Once he is fully developed i.e. his maxilla and
mandible reaches the maximum height and
width, an implant supported prosthesis will be
Zahra Al-timimi
I ssu e #2 • F eb 2009
Thankyou to Dr Carmichael and all the staff at Bloorview
I ssu e #2 • F eb 2009
writing an article
Each edition of SIMA: Prospect will end with a workshop- a response to your requests
from the editorial team or a relevant expert. We have started with the simple task off
writing an article. Here we explore the different phases of the article, in the hope that it will
encourage more of you to dabble in the art of writing. So get in touch with us at [email protected] with suggestions for future workshop subjects...
Why would anyone choose to write an article
about writing an article? And who am I to give
advice about it? Why would anyone want to write
an article at all?
The answer to the first question is this:
because I want to encourage people to write for
SIMA Prospect, to show them that writing articles
can be rewarding and that it’s not as daunting
as it might seem. Secondly, I’m not really. I’m
just someone who dabbles in editing, loves to
read newspapers and journals and who has a
very unsociable interest in grammar. And the
third question has many answers. Some people
write articles to tell the world about an issue they
care for, some use it as an excuse to research
something they are mildly interested in. Others
do it as way to let off steam about things that
annoy them, or even just for writing experience.
Whatever your reason for writing, it’s probably
a good one so read on for a few tips to get you
Let’s assume first of all that you have chosen
a subject that you care about. It doesn’t have to
be a lifelong passion or hobby but something that
you have an interest in strong enough for you
24 a
to give the time and effort needed to research,
write and edit a good article. A reader can tell
when a bored writer has churned out a piece of
writing only to meet a deadline or to fill pages
about a subject he lost interest in before he even
wrote them. The first step to writing an interesting
article is to be interested by the article choose wisely.
The next step is actually getting down to
writing it. Where do you start? When it comes
to writing, everyone has his or her own way:
longhand or laptop, a silent library or a Starbucks
in the city centre. However there are a few things
that anyone writing an article cannot avoid. For
example, you need to start by knowing what kind
of article you intend to write. It might be mainly
a news piece, mostly information on a particular
subject or just a chance to express an opinion.
Of course, most articles combine elements
of all three but it is worth taking a moment to
think it over. Another thing that no article can be
without is lots and lots of research! There is no
(legal) substitute for spending several hours on
the Internet, in the library or even interviewing
experts in order to gather material and evidence
for your article and, of course, your argument.
It will mean that your article is packed with
relevant information with useful references
and an informed, balanced viewpoint that your
reader can rely on.
For example, when writing this article I
researched what the internet and university
library had to say on the subject of article
composition. Most of it wasn’t helpful, a lot of
it was a bit patronising and some of it was long
and boring but I found several recurring points
of advice that I can now pass on to you: avoid
using jargon even if you are assuming that your
reader understands technical terms, check your
grammar carefully or ask someone to check it
for you, check your references thoroughly and
above all, don’t go off the point. Finally, be clear
and direct, making sure that each sentence has
a purpose and is not simply paraphrasing a point
that has already been made elsewhere.
Making sure that you research your topic well
is equally important for ensuring that you are
aware of any contrasting opinions that might exist
about your subject. Even if you’ve decided that the
main aim of your article is to inform your readers,
there is always room for further discussion.
Are there any controversies surrounding the
issue? What are the consequences of events or
situations? It is this debate and these questions
that keep readers intrigued by your article so
be careful not to neglect this part of the topic.
Furthermore, don’t be afraid of showing a little
character and even sharing your own unique
thoughts and opinions in your writing, even
when you are writing a serious article. Literary
enthusiasts refer to this as ‘style’. In the words
of Alexander Theroux: “where there is no style,
there is in effect no point of view. There is,
essentially, no anger, no conviction, no self.”
However, writing your article with a particular
view does not mean that your article has to
be unbalanced or biased. On the contrary, it is
equally important to include contrasting opinions
within your article. Never leave out a crucial
counter-argument just because it wrecks your
point. This will only undermine your argument
and it is another reason why it is so important
to do plenty of research and planning before
writing your article, even before deciding exactly
how you are going to present your point of view.
Finally, if I were to choose one piece of
advice about how to write an article it would be
to organise! Read articles in magazines and
newspapers and you’ll soon notice a pattern –
they are all highly organised. Planning is really
important and should take up a good part of
the time you’ve apportioned to writing your first
draft. It can be difficult for a reader to understand
the point you are trying to make if it has been
split over several paragraphs and mixed in
with other, unrelated comments so try to keep
everything in a logical order. It seems too easy to
say “introduction, middle, conclusion” but all too
often an otherwise fascinating and well-written
article can be spoiled because the writer has
failed to actually deliver the point he has been
leading up to.
No two articles, even if they are on the same
subject, will present information in the same way
so you will always have a chance to influence
the way people think.
So now it’s my turn to write a conclusion. Get
writing for SIMA!
Your message does not have to be heard
only by those you interact with on a daily basis.
Publishing an article with SIMA allows the entire
world to read your views with a single click. The
written word, as you have read in this issue’s
editorial, can change history forever. Ancient
Iraq taught the world the value of writing:
civilisations passed, empires fell and yet this
history continues to be celebrated in libraries
and museums. These achievements formed
the basis of science, as we know it today. Now
SIMA:Prospect hopes to influence the world’s
awareness of and participation in the progress
Health Awareness
Iraq Relief Network...
With so much effort having gone into the realisation of the Iraq Relief banner, it is with great excitement
that we can announce the first Iraq Relief Networking Forum, due to take place in mid-february.
Ayia Al-Asadi,
SIMA: London Chair
As you know, one of the aims of Iraq Relief is to bring together a network of individuals, groups
and organisations working for and within Iraq, in order to facilitae a more efficient response to the
rehabilitation needs in Iraq.
These invitational events, will therefore feature two organisations that will be invited to give a presentation
shedding light on their aims, objectives, activities and progress, encouraging discussion and development
of project ideas amongst an audience of individuals, charities and organisations who have a shared vision.
In so doing, we hope to bring about new relationships and collaborations that will better complement the
needs of the Iraqi Healthcare system.
Alongside the networking forums, the Iraq Relief team are brainstorming new exciting new projects to take
to Iraq, continuous fundraising efforts and ofcourse our anual dinner.
If you are interested in attending or hearing more about
these and other events, please get in touch with us at
[email protected]
SIMA: North
SIMA: Wales
Now an official society under the University of
Cardiff Students Union, SIMA: Wales continues to
expand its diverse membership.
Since it’s birth last year, SIMA: Wales has
with various tutorials and revision sessions.
Previously covered topics include, Head & Neck
anatomy, ECG interpretation and OSCE skills.
Time has flown by, and so several of the original
SIMA: North committee have graduated and moved
on from the wonderful North. Consequently... we
are recruting!!!
If you are interested in getting involved or finding
out more about SIMA: North e-mail us at
[email protected]
Check the SIMA: Wales page on the website, or get in touch at
[email protected]
26 a
Yousar Jafar
SIMA: Wales is also forging ahead in forming
partnerships with other university societies, with
a large collaboration with the Cardiff University
Surgical Society in the pipeline!
We are always told that anything is possible;
all it takes is self belief, hard work, passion and a change, however small, can be made
to the world we live in. Having witnessed the
fearful and passive attitude towards health in
the Iraqi community, we embarked on a unique
mission to initiate a change in this mentality. Our health awareness campaign aimed
to encourage a proactive approach to health
management within community members,
specifically in the age range of 40 and over.
Through a series of short 15 minute tutorials at
large community gatherings, we aimed to dispel
myths and arm individuals with accurate information that empowers them, to take control of
their own health and that of their families.
December 2008 saw the introduction of our
Health Awareness Campaign, during the Muharram events at Al Khoei foundation, where for
seven nights specialist doctors from around the
country and a group of dedicated healthcare
students volunteered their time to make our
vision a reality. We chose six topics that we felt
were particularly important for the Iraqi community, namely, Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease,
First Aid, Aches and Pains and Oral Hygiene.
To complement the talks, we produced simple
bilingual leaflets that the audience could take
home to reflect on in their own time.
As we set things in motion we quickly began
to see the positive impact this was having on
our community. To speak to a man who approached us with recommended health products mentioned in a talk, to watch the men
taking part in our first aid demonstrations and to
see the women eagerly queue for our leaflets
was truly rewarding.
However success is an abstract term, and we
realise that it didn’t actually matter how many
I ssu e #2 • F eb 2009
The SIMA: London Health Awareess Campaign
people attended or how many positive comments were received, it was enough that we
got the important information out there for the
people who were willing to learn. In reality we
won’t know how many people actually changed
their health behaviour as a result of our talks
and our leaflets, and perhaps that is the way it
should be.
What’s more, this is just the beginning! We
have many more exciting and interesting projects coming up over the next year, including
visiting schools across London to teach children
First Aid and our careers workshop, planned for
the summer ahead.
We are grateful for all the support and encouragement we have received, and we extend
our warmest thanks to IWA and Al Khoei foundation for helping us succeed in this campaign.
We hope to build on this success in the future
and continue to grow from strength to strength.
If you think your community could benefit from
a Health Awareness campaign, get in touch
with us at
[email protected]
I s s u e #2 • F e b 2009
Iraq then
Iraq now.