Operation Medical Libraries

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According to a recent New York Times article, nearly three decades of war and religious extremism have devastated medical libraries and crippled the educational system for health professionals in Afghanistan. Medical texts, in particular, were singled out for destruction by factions of the Taliban (1996-2001), because anatomical depictions of the human body were considered blasphemous.

Valerie Walker, director of the Medical Alumni Association of the University of California, Los Angeles, is helping to lead an ambitious effort by American doctors and nurses, both civilian and military, to restock Afghanistan’s hospitals, clinics and universities with medical textbooks and other reference materials.

The project, called Operation Medical Libraries, began in 2007 with a plea for books from a UCLA medical graduate serving in the Army. It has since been embraced by 30 universities and hospitals, more than a dozen professional organizations and scores of individual health professionals.

Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan Photo: CDR R. Wesley Farr, MC, USN

Donors can contribute directly by visiting the project’s Web site, finding a military volunteer’s address, then shipping the books on their own. Books on biology, chemistry, anatomy, medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacology and physical therapy are all in demand — especially those published in the last five years.

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