FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq- "An opportunity to pursue a university education is important for a modern economy," said Lt. Col. Hugh McNeely, the deputy commanding officer for 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. "And another one is access to qualified doctors and quality medical care."

McNeely recently visited the Kirkuk College of Medicine, one of eight schools that make up the Kirkuk University, Oct. 15.

"The reasons for this visit were two-fold," said McNeely. "It helps gain visibility over the colleges in the area; about how they function; what their capabilities are; and what challenges they have. It also was an opportunity to understand how this school fits into the equation and eventual solution in regards to a shortage of doctors that is plaguing the province."

Many small clinics have trouble finding qualified doctors. There is a perception of security risks in remote areas in the province, and McNeely wanted to reassure the dean of this school during this visit that security is improving because of the efforts by Iraqi Security Forces.

Doctors are much safer now in these areas than they were only a few years ago, and security will continue to improve for them in the future, McNeely said.

Although this school will not be able to produce its first batch of doctors for another three years, McNeely feels the province will benefit much from them.

"They will give them the ability to fill some if not all of their shortages," he said.

During his visit, McNeely also spoke to the dean of the school about what the school needs.

He received a rather unusual request in response.

"We are in need of a plasticized cadaver," said the school's dean, Dr. Fakher Al-Deen Najim Nasser.

A plasticized cadaver is a body that can be dissected multiple times, allowing students to learn anatomy and practice surgical techniques on it for several years.

In addition to this, Fakher said that his school also needs more room to grow. The school currently has about 240 students, and is expecting another 60 this year.

Besides this, McNeely said the school seemed to be in very good shape.

The school has the equipment it needs to train its students in medicine, according to McNeely.

This is the third college of the eight that make up the Kirkuk University that McNeely has visited.

"This is a pulse check," he said. "It allows us to see how well they're functioning."

If the dean have issues or need help getting something accomplished, they can bring them up in these meetings, and we can relay them to the local government, he explained.

McNeely plans to continue visiting colleges and universities in the province throughout the rest of his unit's stay in Iraq.