Wednesday, April 9, 2003


Kauai doctor Jeffrey Goodman, shown here with Afghan children, volunteered for medical duty in Kabul, Afghanistan, last year and will leave tomorrow for Kuwait.

Kauai doctor
to set up health
clinics in Iraq

Dr. Jeffrey Goodman will put
together an eight-person team
in Kuwait to go to Basra

By Anthony Sommer

LIHUE >> Kauai physician Dr. Jeffrey Goodman leaves tomorrow night for Kuwait to assemble a team of medical personnel who will set up health care clinics in Iraq.

It is a familiar role for Goodman, who was in Kabul, Afghanistan, last year. That was his second trip to Afghanistan; the first was to help set up clinics after the Afghans threw Soviet troops out of the country.

Goodman said he will assemble a team of eight people from all over the world in Kuwait City. The plan is to take the team to Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, to meet urgent needs at the hospital there. Similar teams are being formed in Jordan, Turkey and Dubai.

Much of the work early on will be gathering data to determine what medical care is needed most urgently.

"The initial plan has us moving from Basra to Baghdad. Where I really hope we can go is into northern Iraq to work with the Kurds. We'll just have to wait and see if that is possible," he said.

Tomorrow, by coincidence, is Goodman's 58th birthday. A widower with two grown sons, Goodman has spent his entire medical career on Kauai's North Shore, where he has lived since 1972, and is one of the island's best-known residents.

In the world of modern medicine, Goodman is something of an anachronism, an old-fashioned family physician whose home phone number is listed in the telephone book. He considers longtime patients as his friends. He says his patients are getting used to his sudden departures.

"My son Jason told me to keep my head down," Goodman said in an interview yesterday.

"People don't try to talk me out of going anymore. 'This is what he does and there he goes again,' has become their reaction," he added.

His humanitarian efforts are not totally selfless, he said. "They give me a sense of purpose, and frankly, it's exciting."

Goodman's travels have been under the auspices of the International Medical Corps, a nongovernmental agency that sends medical personnel to poverty-stricken areas with immediate medical needs. The agency receives most of its funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, although it accepts private contributions as well.

His employer, Wilcox Health Systems, has been supportive, Goodman said. Although, technically, he has to quit every time he leaves, they always agree to hire him back when he returns.

The International Medical Corps is sending between 125 and 200 doctors, nurses and other public health professionals into Iraq. Last week, an International Medical Corps team conducted a needs assessment at Umm Qasr Hospital in southern Iraq where a staff of only three doctors is treating 300 people a day.

Leaders of the U.S.-led coalition decided last week to allow humanitarian groups into areas of Iraq that are considered secure. Goodman said he called the International Medical Corps headquarters in Los Angeles 2 1/2 weeks ago and volunteered. They said they needed a team leader, and he took the job. He has committed to staying in the region until June 28.

He said his response to the beginning of the war in Iraq was similar to his feelings on Sept. 11, 2001.

"When I saw those planes fly into those two towers, I knew immediately there was going to be trouble in Afghanistan," Goodman said. During his previous tour there, he developed a deep affection for the Afghan people. Pictures of the country adorn the walls in his Kilauea medical clinic.

During his two months in Kabul, Goodman helped establish 20 medical clinics that now treat 27,000 patients a month.

He said he believes he can put that experience to use in Iraq. Although he will treat some patients, his primary role will be to conduct health care assessments and support and train Iraqi medical personnel.

Goodman said he has been reading everything he can find on Iraqi culture.

"I have some concern for my personal safety. But really, the only thing I fear right now is the jet lag I'm going to have when I get to Kuwait City."

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