On December 2, 2010, Brad Carrott, the chief of biomedical engineering services with Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, Salinas, Calif, joined a team of medical people and went to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, with the mission to install brand-new Philips Medical Systems cardiac care monitors at the Jalalabad Public Health Hospital Number One in the Nangarhar Province in Afghanistan. The city is close to the famous Khyber Pass, which leads into Pakistan and passes territory where the Taliban is in caves in the region. Jalalabad is the second most influential city in Afghanistan, with Kabul being the capital city. Not only did the medical team provide outstanding new monitors (a total of nine with a central station), but they also provided other equipment from GE Healthcare.
The project, according to the Afghan community, is one of the best medical humanitarian projects done in Afghanistan. No hospital in that country has the new equipment this hospital has in its intensive care/critical care department. This project was so successful that the governor of the province, the mayor of the city, the top officials of the university system, and the leadership of the hospital went out of their way to host this team. The project was a Rotary project, with Susan DuPree, PhD, as the lead Rotarian from Pleasanton North Rotary Club in Rotary District 5170. Assist International, Scotts Valley, Calif, served as the service vendor for the project. The medical team was made up of Carrott as well as Ed Myers from Philips Medical Systems in Andover, Mass; Steven Stephanides, MD, FACEP, a Harvard graduate physician with a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from MIT; and Jim Stunkel, executive director of Assist International, a humanitarian organization founded in 1990.
Before this project, the intensive care/critical care department was in name only. There were no cardiac care monitors or any other equipment in the department, yet critical care patients, including those injured because of war, filled the department. It was more a “room of death” instead of a “room of life.”
This project was not without risk. Two months before this medical team ventured to Afghanistan, 10 humanitarian physicians were killed in Afghanistan. As the president and founder of Assist International, I was concerned about the safety of the team, and it was not easy to give permission for this team to go to Afghanistan. With the cooperation of the US military and the United States Agency for International Development—USAID, the chief US agency that extends assistance to countries recovering from disaster—the medical team was flown from Kabul to Jalalabad so they did not have to take the road from Kabul to Jalalabad, considered a very dangerous road. The hospital and the Rotary Club of Jalalabad provided security, and the people from Jalalabad gave their best to host this team. The project was an outstanding success, and the team arrived back in the United States on December 13 safe and sound with the knowledge that they lifted this hospital to a new level of health care. The Afghans rejoiced because of such a success. The medical team changed a “room of death” into a “room of life.”
Brad Carrott has been on many humanitarian projects with Assist International since 1991. Other biomedical engineers from the Bay Area have also gone on projects with Assist International, including Paul Kelley, the director of biomedical engineering and green initiative, Washington Hospital, Fremont, Calif.
I say that biomedical engineers are the unsung heroes of many medical projects. Assist International has done more than 150 medical projects in 60 countries around the world, and depends on biomedical engineers who volunteer to help with these projects. In all the medical projects that Assist International has been involved in, some of the most important medical people are the biomedical engineers who not only do the installation but also provide training for maintenance and repair and leave behind manuals on all the equipment provided. All systems that Assist International has provided are still operational, thanks to outstanding biomedical engineers.
Brad Carrott epitomizes the biomedical engineering community. He took great risks to go to Afghanistan. Biomedical engineers are the unsung heroes in great humanitarian projects around the world.
Bob Pagett is the founder/president of Assist International, Scotts Valley, Calif. He received the AMMI/ACCE Robert L. Morris Humanitarian Award, and is the three-time recipient of the Rotary District 5170 Carl G. Orne Award for the greatest personal commitment to world peace and understanding. For more information, contact .
What’s on Your Mind?
Got a gripe? A recommendation? Does someone or something deserve praise? Share your opinions and insights with your peers. Soapbox columns should be 850 to 900 words in length and can be e-mailed to .