- Associated Press - Monday, November 3, 2014

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - A team of Tulsa doctors from In His Image Family Medicine Residency returned this month from a 10-day medical missions trip to Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq, where they helped people displaced by the Islamic State.

The team partnered with World Compassion, a Tulsa-based ministry that has had a long history of providing humanitarian relief in Kurdistan, the Tulsa World reported (http://bit.ly/1tdowgS ).

In His Image is a family medicine residency program affiliated with the St. John Health System.

The team reached Erbil through Istanbul, Turkey, carrying 23 pieces of luggage containing a large amount of medicine and medical supplies.

They provided medical care to about 750 patients, most of them Kurdish Christians driven from their homes by the army of the Islamic State, said Dr. Mitch Duininck, team leader and residency director of In His Image.

Duininck said that this spring and summer, the Islamic State began to aggressively attack many villages, towns and cities in northern Iraq and northern Syria.

“They moved quickly, capturing many towns, killing many brutally, kidnapping women and giving ultimatums to convert to Islam, pay huge amounts of money or leave their homes,” he said.

“We heard just horrible stories from the people we were working with,” he said. They told about bodies being lined up and soldiers playing soccer with decapitated heads, he added.

Many Christians fled from their homes into Iraqi Kurdistan, often to the capital city of Erbil, he said. Some estimates are that more than 1.3 million people were displaced from their homes.

“These people are not poor, destitute people,” Duininck said. “They owned cars, homes, land. A lot of them are professionals, business people, shop owners, teachers.

“A lot of them have family members in the United States and Canada.

“They just fled in terror,” he said, leaving all their possessions behind.

Duininck said the team worked with people living in small tent cities on the grounds of local churches, in a partially completed shopping mall, on the unoccupied top floors of an active shopping mall, and in a partially constructed office building.

“Makeshift clinics were set up using borrowed chairs and tables, often with several doctors working in a single room,” he said.

The clinic moved from place to place in the city where the displaced people were located, at the direction of local officials.

“Local translators with excellent English skills were hired to assist in the clinical areas and in the pharmacy.”

Duininck said the team saw patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly, and dealt many issues, including chronic disease management of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, heart disease and arthritis.

“There were also many acute medical issues addressed and a significant amount of emotional and psychological problems,” he said.

He said the team found nearly all of the patients open to prayer and spiritual discussions.

Local medical providers welcomed them and asked them to return, he said.

Another In His Image team went to Kurdistan last year, and a 2015 trip is being discussed, he said.

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Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com

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