University educators from Afghanistan toured Spokane’s two community colleges, PAML’s laboratory facilities, and one of the local hospitals last week as part of a new international partnership designed to help improve workforce training in war-torn countries. The delegation of university professors and administrators were in the U.S. to learn more about this country’s college-based medical education programs and healthcare system.

Trained medical and equipment technicians are in such short supply throughout Afghanistan that the country has to recruit skilled workers from Pakistan and Turkey in order to keep sophisticated medical equipment operating properly. Afghanistan’s higher education system does not include any 2-year technical programs and the country wants to expand their system to include technology-based associate degrees.

During their week-long stay in Spokane from April 26 to May 2, 2015, the educators visited both of Spokane’s community college campuses and met with their respective administrators, faculty, staff, and students. The delegation also met with several higher education and community healthcare leaders to discuss healthcare issues and how the colleges help provide a skilled labor force for the local healthcare market. PAML provided a reception for the group after they toured the national reference laboratory facilities. “We are delighted to exchange information with our colleagues from Afghanistan,” indicated Dr. Velázquez. ”We truly believe that access to education is critical for the people of any country to reach their full potential.”

The delegation was particularly interested in learning more about Spokane Community College’s (SCC) two-year Biomedical Equipment Technology (BMET) program. SCC’s program is one of just 10 BMET programs in the United States. The Biomedical Equipment Technology faculty from SCC will be helping design a new Biomedical Equipment program at Kabul Medical University in Afghanistan. It is expected to be the first associate’s degree offered in Afghanistan. The SCC BMET program was chosen in part for the quality of education they provide and the direct accessibility to graduates and professionals and facilities available in the Spokane community. Steve Wilson, SCC Biomedical Technology faculty, will travel to Kabul in June to help with training and implementation at the university. “We are excited to help develop this BMET new program with Kabul Medical University. We are confident that the Afghan delegation will benefit from touring our facility and meeting our staff, graduates and community leaders,” said Dr. Lisa Avery, CCS project coordinator and vice provost of strategic partnerships.

Community Colleges of Spokane (CCS) served as the lead host for the delegation’s stay in Spokane. “We are very proud of our advancements in biomedical technology education and health services in the Spokane region,” said CCS Chancellor Christine Johnson. “We are honored to share our expertise with these professionals from Afghanistan so they can establish similar quality education in Kabul and beyond.”

The delegation was in Spokane as part of the Best Practices Study Course sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Afghanistan University Support and Workforce Development Program. This cooperative learning program was made possible by a $500,000 grant from the USAID, facilitated by the University of Massachusetts. The group will visit medical facilities in Seattle as well as a handful of Western Washington community colleges and Microsoft Corp.