Swedish soldiers boost surgery skills in Afghanistan

David Pazooki, head of the Swedish unit in Afghanistan performing advanced surgery, has been named Professor of the Faculty of Medicine at Balkh University in Mazar-i-Sharif.

Professor David Pazooki during a lecture in Mazar-i-Sharif. Photo: Pelle Vamstad

 “This is a very fine gesture but more than anything, this recognition contributes to further enhance the already positive view the general public in Afghanistan have of the Swedish forces here,” says Pazooki.

The background to the appointment is a project launched by the Swedish forces in Afghanistan in the summer that aimed to help develop the expertise of civilian surgeons in Afghanistan. David Pazooki was the man behind the idea and has also headed the project since its inception.

“Put simply, the surgery project is designed to develop surgery in Afghanistan. After decades of war, it is little wonder they have fallen behind in this respect,” Pazooki explains.

Pazooki’s make up of professional expertise, curiosity, eagerness to learn, language skills and ability to adapt to different cultures has now been rewarded with the title of professor. It was also curiosity that initially persuaded him to contact hospitals in Mazar-i-Sharif.

“It was really more a case of simply wanting to see how things were and how everything worked. But it did not take long before I was asked to make a medical assessment of a patient. Which led to me operating on the patient with a successful outcome,” adds Pazooki.

Eleven lectures
One thing led to another and Pazooki has now performed 17 operations and given eleven lectures. He has benefited enormously from the fact that this current mission is his third in the International Force, and his eleventh foreign mission as a doctor, which has included working for Medicins sans Frontieres.

“I am a doctor in a Swedish desert uniform and it is an honour for me to represent Sweden in the International Force. Sweden has helped me and this is my way of giving something back,” says Pazooki who fled from Iran in the mid 1980s.

Specialist expertise
In Sweden he works as a surgeon at the surgery clinic at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Göteborg. As such Pazooki is one of many civilian specialists currently working in the Swedish military force in Afghanistan. And in Pazooki’s case, it is his specialist expertise that has resulted in a professorship at Balkh University in Mazar-i-Sharif.

“Each year, around 120 medical students start their training at the faculty of medicine. To which can be added a further 20-25 qualified doctors training to become specialists in different areas at the same faculty,” says Pazooki. 

Parliamentary resolution
The Swedish soldiers are part of ISAF that is acting under UN mandate under NATO command, in a similar way to KFOR in Kosovo. This is based on a parliamentary and government resolution. The Swedish presence aims to assist the democratically elected government of Afghanistan, by maintaining security and calm in a country torn by war and conflict for decades, in cooperation with Afghan military and police forces.

Professional and cultural diversity is important for the Swedish Unit in Afghanistan in being able to handle the task assigned to it by the government and parliament. The surgery project is concrete proof of the clear values such Swedish diversity can offer to Afghan society, which is something that will benefit the entire population of Afghanistan.

By: Pelle Vamstad
Press- & Information Officer FS13