COB BASRA, Iraq - As U.S. forces shift their focus from operations to advising, in southern Iraq, the healthcare sector took center-stage recently.

The 1st Infantry Division set out to increase the number of skilled Iraqi birth attendants through a two-day course in Basra July 31 and August 1.

"This training is part of our medical civil military operations. It's opportunities for us to engage the local communities though a medical perspective to see how we can support them," said Capt. Tisha Bridge, 1st Inf. Div. Physician Assistant. "The purpose of the class is to provide neonatal resuscitation training to local Iraqi physicians."

Approximately one in 10 babies worldwide requires resuscitation when they are born, Bridge said.

"All of the Iraqi physicians that attended are pediatricians; they are already familiar with and practice neonatal resuscitation at their respective medical facilities," Bridge said. "We wanted to provide a refresher class to them and introduce them to these specific training models so that they could, in turn, more effectively train their midwives, nurses and other birth attendants."

The program entails two days of training, lectures and hands-on training that began with a pre-course assessment.

"Our amazing medical team provided resuscitation training and equipment to Iraqi doctors and some nurses," said Farida Samano, a bicultural advisor for the 1st Inf. Div. "These newly-trained medical personnel, in turn, train other doctors and medical personnel, and as a result, thousands of newborn lives are saved, not to mention how beneficial this training is for the Marshland areas."

At the end of the course, there is a practical assessment, the "Mega-Code", which provides a simulated neonatal resuscitation emergency evaluation followed by a written exam.

"Using the training equipment that was donated by the Latter Day Saints Charity Organization, we were all able to come together at the Basra airport, learn more about each other's cultures and medical practices, and provide an improved knowledge base for neonatal resuscitation in Basra hospitals and rural clinics," Bridge said.

The 20 donated training sets include a model baby and resuscitation equipment.

"We organized this training opportunity with them, and they shipped over all the training materials," Bridge said.

Bridge said while the Iraqi healthcare providers were the primary benefactors of the training, the U.S. practitioners benefitted as well.

"Every opportunity to teach medicine is also an opportunity for the instructor to learn the material better," Bridge said. "Consequently, Medical Civil Military Operations activities like these are a win-win for everyone involved; U.S. and Iraqi medical providers alike reinforce their medical skills."