Published Sun, Jan 1, 2012 1:24 pm Dateline
Normally, Doctors Haval Saadlla and Jack Baker practice medicine at Adena Health System in Chillicothe.
But normal took a left turn earlier this month when Saadlla and Baker packed their bags, jumped in a plane and traveled thousands of miles to Iraq.
Dr. Saadlla talked Dr. Baker into going with him to Erbil, a city of one million people which is located in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.
It's an area that desperately needs the help of visiting physicians like Saadlla, who specializes in pulmonary disease, and Baker, a cardiothoracic surgeon.
They spent a week there and during that time, Baker performed two open heart procedures.
He calls the experience humbling and frustrating.
"Three wars in 30 years have taken a toll on the people and the country," says Baker. "Their human resources are exhausted, their material resources are exhausted and they have not really had the benefit of continuing education because of all the conflicts."
Saadlla practiced medicine in northern Iraq in the early 90s before coming to the U.S.
He says things have not changed much since he left and he's looking forward to making another trip in 2012.
"This was very important for me to set the stage for the future and more and more missions. The success of this recent visit helps lay the groundwork for other visits," he said.
Doctor Baker was initially hesitant to go to Iraq but now says the visit went without a hitch and he's ready to go again.
Saadlla says the next trip is tentatively planned for May.