TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The room full of doctors on the large TV screen spoke over one another, enthusiastically and in Arabic.
"We want to know your needs and how we can help you," Dr. Stanley Grogg, interim provost and dean of the Oklahoma State University College of Health Sciences in Tulsa, told them.
The slight lag in the satellite video feed was the only evidence the doctors on the big screen were more than 7,000 miles away at Kadhamiyah Teaching Hospital in a dangerous section of Baghdad.
It was the first of continuing weekly teleconferences in which OSU specialists will provide expertise, hear medical cases and help Iraqi doctors plan medical interventions for their patients.
"Our mission is still Oklahoma and the underserved. This is kind of extending that mission to make our medical students better physicians," Grogg said.
The Tulsa-Baghdad connection is the brainchild of Dr. Anil Kaul, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the OSU medical school in Tulsa.
He is on sabbatical there serving as senior public health adviser for the State Department to help evaluate the war-torn country's health care structure and identify priority needs.
While there, Kaul, a native of India, realized many Iraqi medical textbooks are outdated and up-to-date information is scarce.
OSU has a sophisticated telemedicine system that allows specialists in Tulsa to consult with doctors in rural areas via real-time audio and video. So Kaul thought that could be extended across the world.
Kadhamiyah hospital is the country's second largest with 655 beds, and many patients have rare or difficult medical conditions as a result of inadequate hygiene, nutrition or vaccinations, said Grogg, who has traveled extensively throughout the world on medical missions.
On this day, it was noon in Tulsa and 8 p.m. in Baghdad. For the Iraqis, the hour allowed for cooler temperatures, which often reach a blazing 124 degrees earlier in the day.
Grogg, along with Dr. Rhonda Casey, vice chair and assistant professor of pediatrics, and Dr. Christine Clary, associate professor of pediatrics, sat in a conference room in front of the big screen.
In Baghdad, Kaul acted as interpreter for some of the Iraqi doctors. But many speak English.
One Iraqi physician lamented the hospital's inability to get medical equipment and supplies, particularly so doctors can perform safer procedures, such as minimally invasive surgery.
"We hear all about this, but we don't have instruments. We don't have training," he said. "We feel like we're in another world — not a third world really but a seventh world."
An Iraqi pediatrician, who wore a burqa that covered her body and her head, told the Tulsa doctors that the neonatal unit's infant mortality rate is high because they have no respirators, particularly continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP.
"It sounds like you have some very fine physicians who are doing a great job and could really benefit from having the proper equipment," Casey said.
Grogg said the school might be able to find donated equipment to ship to the hospital.
At the end of the discussion, an Iraqi physician thanked the OSU doctors. He then held up a T-shirt that read, "Genuine OSU Cowboys," prompting applause from OSU physicians and laughter from both sides of the world.
Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com