by Natalie GutierrezAdministering exams to students and preparing them for future careers in medicine is routine for a Health Science Center physician. But for Jim Dorman, M.D., his life’s calling of being a teacher and mentor turned into an adventure he’ll never forget.
On March 15 Dr. Dorman, assistant professor of surgery at the Health Science Center, chief of the general surgery section at the Audie L. Murphy Division of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System and a United States Naval Reserve captain, received orders to report to active duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He would be responsible for providing medical support for the U.S. marines and sailors. Dr. Dorman assumed surgical duties at Tallil Air Base some 10 miles southwest of An Nasiriyah. Bullet wounds, burns, broken bones, lacerations and heat exhaustion were some of the most common ailments Dr. Dorman treated. Although the emergency room was a simple tent, it served the medical staff well and managed to protect them from the scorching 120+ degree temperatures and violent sandstorms
After seven weeks, with completion of the Marine Corps’ Mission in An Nasiriyah, Dr. Dorman’s unit convoyed northwest to Ad Diwaniyah, some 100 miles southeast of Baghdad where the war raged on. Dr. Dorman said he is fortunate to have avoided harm, especially because an unexpected mission awaited him in Ad Diwaniyah.
While there, Dr. Dorman and his fellow naval physicians were approached by
Dr. Amir Fadhel Sadiq, a staff physician of Diwaniyah General Hospital, who asked them if they would help him administer oral exams to more than 35 medical students.
"Although these students had completed six years of medical school, they had had little exposure to any professional development outside their country,"
Dr. Dorman said. "Saddam Hussein’s government had put limitations on their seeking knowledge from sources outside their country and Dr. Sadiq was concerned that his students would suffer because of this," he said. "Post-graduate training in Iraq has been curtailed for many years, and Iraqi physicians expressed a burning desire to resume those efforts to improve and modernize medical care in their country."
Dr. Dorman seized the opportunity to help Dr. Sadiq and his students, who were eager to participate. On July 26, Dr. Dorman provided his signature on the completed and successful exams of 37 proud medical students. They graduated from the College of Medicine of Al-Diwaniyah University.
Although Dr. Dorman said he never felt threatened while in Iraq, danger and death were all around him. But he says he wouldn’t trade his experience for anything.
"I have gained a great deal of satisfaction knowing that I was able to help medical students grow in a country that has been suppressed for so long," Dr. Dorman said. "They learned from me, and I learned much from them. It was worth the risk."
Upon returning to the United States, Dr. Dorman received a promising e-mail from Dr. Sadiq, who is interested in collaborating on an exchange program between the UTHSC and the College of Medicine of Al-Diwaniyah University. These efforts, he believes, will aid in the reconstruction of postwar Iraq.
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