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Student Life

Becoming a doctor in Baghdad

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 01 May 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:0805187
  1. Mohammed Jaafar Saeed, general practitioner1
  1. 1Al-Alwayia Hospital for Children, Baghdad

Mohammed Jaafar Saeed tells of the struggle to study medicine in war torn Iraq

What is it like to study medicine in war torn Iraq?

Most medical students think about leaving Iraq—that's why USMLE (the US medical licensing exam), PLAB (the professional and linguistic assessments board), and IELTS (the international English language testing system) have become common in our vocabulary. I arranged with two colleagues that we would study together. We bought books for USMLE, and that's how I prepared for starting my last year in medical college.

Security at that time was deteriorating and getting to college was hard with the blocked roads. The constant danger of nearby bombs meant that sometimes we would wait for hours for the roads to open. Once I was returning from college with my father and the highway was closed, and an Iraqi soldier was telling people to get off the highway and use a small street beside it. So we did, and that's when a bomb exploded. The car shook, the windshield broke, and debris fell on us. We were so close to the site of the explosion. We were lucky. In such situations 30 seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

I was in other dangerous situations in the last year at college. Mortar shells fell 20 m away from where my colleagues and I were sitting. A bomb exploded on a roundabout where my friends and I were heading to have breakfast near college—we ran quickly and took shelter behind a …

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