North­eastern Uni­ver­sity hosted a del­e­ga­tion of Iraqi mental health pro­fes­sionals to share with them the inno­v­a­tive trauma and sub­stance abuse treat­ment pro­grams devel­oped by the Insti­tute on Urban Health Research (IUHR)—knowl­edge they can inte­grate into med­ical pro­grams in their homeland.

During the two-​​day visit on Sept. 22–23, the vis­i­tors learned about the University’s inte­grated model for the treat­ment of trauma and its mental health con­se­quences, devel­oped by IUHR Director Hort­ensia Amaro. Working in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Rita Nieves at the Boston Public Health Com­mis­sion, Amaro has devised nation­ally rec­og­nized pro­grams for treating trauma—often stem­ming from child­hood abuse or adult phys­ical or sexual abuse. The pro­grams serve all pop­u­la­tions, though the majority are African-​​American or Latina women, and many are low-​​income, single mothers.

The Iraqi teams vis­ited IUHR for training ses­sions, toured out­pa­tient facil­i­ties in Boston that are imple­menting these pro­grams and met some of the clients.

We are hon­ored to have been selected by the Sub­stance Abuse and Mental Health Ser­vices Admin­is­tra­tion (SAMHSA) to be one of the handful of pro­grams for the treat­ment of mental health and drug addic­tion for the delegation’s visit,” Amaro said. “While we rec­og­nized that our social and polit­ical con­texts are quite dif­ferent, we found many com­mon­al­i­ties, including the shared under­standing of the impor­tant role of cul­ture in ser­vice delivery and the appre­ci­a­tion of human resilience. It has been a mutu­ally ben­e­fi­cial learning expe­ri­ence that we hope opens up future oppor­tu­ni­ties for research col­lab­o­ra­tion and stu­dent learning opportunities.”

The Iraqis hope to tailor their own pro­grams for treating patients around Northeastern’s struc­tured, evidence-​​based approach. They said that a great majority of the Iraqi people suf­fers from var­ious forms of trauma—including post-​​traumatic stress disorder—due to decades of vio­lence and polit­ical insta­bility in their war-​​torn country.

Dr. Rebwar Gha­reeb Hama, a psy­chi­a­trist in Iraq’s Kur­distan region, hopes to inte­grate new trauma ser­vices into pri­mary health care at his hos­pital. Among the par­tic­ular areas of interest, said Hama, were the ther­a­peutic ses­sions, child ser­vices, inter­ac­tion within mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary teams, and patient con­fi­den­tiality policies.

Stephen Zoloth, dean of the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences, called the visit “an incred­ible oppor­tu­nity to share what Hort­ensia and her insti­tute has devel­oped in the areas of mental health and sub­stance abuse treat­ment. We can learn from (the Iraqis) as well about how they approach mental health issues.

This empha­sizes Northeastern’s global per­spec­tive, as we look across dif­ferent cul­tures to dis­cover the best solu­tions to common problems.”

Under Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun’s lead­er­ship, North­eastern has expanded its global pres­ence through inter­na­tional part­ner­ships, rising expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­ni­ties, and research that focuses on solving global chal­lenges in the areas of health, secu­rity and sustainability.

The Iraqi health offi­cials’ visit to Northeastern—sponsored by SAMHSA, a public health agency within the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices, and Iraq’s Min­istry of Health—is part of a six-​​week tour of Amer­ican insti­tu­tions and health facil­i­ties. In total, six teams of Iraqi health pro­fes­sionals trav­eled over­seas for the learning experience—with both of the trauma-​​focused teams vis­iting Northeastern.