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School of Medicine Columbia

Alumnus helping secure supplies, training needed to diagnose COVID-19 cases in Iraq

The University of South Carolina School of Medicine Columbia recognizes that many of our alumni are involved in many ways with the COVID-19 pandemic. Several alumni have graciously shared their stories with us, and we wanted to share one alumnus’ thoughts with you “in his own words.”

“My name is Haider Rasheed Daham Alrafas. I am a graduate of the UofSC School of Medicine Columbia, with a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences, PMI. I also am a Nagarkatti lab alumnus. I graduated last year in 2019, and I am working as a faculty member in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Basrah, Iraq.

“I would like to share my story during the COVID-19 pandemic and how I used the skills and knowledge that I learned during my studies at the SOM. 

“Due to a global shortage of supplies and equipment that are necessary to fight the deadly coronavirus pandemic, my colleagues and I, with the help of the University of Basrah, the United Nations and the World Health Organization assisted in successfully producing urgently needed laboratory items for testing suspected COVID-19 cases in Iraq.

“As a volunteer member of COVID-19 crisis team at the University of Basrah, and in collaboration with the WHO, we were able to successfully produce the Virus Transport Media, VTM, and nasal swabs that are necessary to collect and preserve nasal swab specimens while being transported to the lab. We were able to provide the Iraq health care system with 22,438 VTMs and 44,876 nasal swabs which make the COVID-19 screen test possible in all Iraq provinces.

“Also, my colleagues and I were able to help the Iraq medical technicians by providing extensive training for using the RT PCR technique that is used to diagnose COVID-19, which we received from the UN, the U.S. government and Chinese government as a gift to Iraq health system to fight against this pandemic.

“We are still working on more things that help in this global battle which are still under development.

“I am happy to share my story with you. I am sure that a lot of USC SOM Alumni have done great things and they are a real COVID-19 Heroes.

“I am so proud to be a UofSC SOM alumnus, and I am thankful and grateful to this great school especially to my mentors Drs. Mitzi and Prakash Nagarkatti for their excellent mentorship. They inspired me and taught me how to lead during difficult times and help my community and my country during this COVID-19 pandemic.”

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