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David Geffen School of Medicine

In Her Own Words: Laura Pacha, MD ’98

Laura Pacha, MD ’98, is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. She serves as manager of the Disease Epidemiology Program in the Army Public Health Command, located at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. On April 4, 2007, Dr. Pacha sent an email from Iraq, where she was deployed, to the UCLA Medical Alumni Association (MAA,) which became the inspiration for a program to collect medical texts for medical school libraries in war-torn areas of the Middle East. The program was recognized as a Daily Point of Light in 2009.

It’s exciting, and even overwhelming, as I reflect on what has happened since I emailed the MAA during my deployment in Iraq six years ago. From my request, the MAA created Books Without Borders, which is now known as Operation Medical Libraries (OML). Scrolling through the OML blog entries literally brings tears to my eyes. The postings represent a truly grassroots effort and reflect the generosity of so many — from an 18-year-old student who wants to become a doctor to corporate and university support.

OML’s continued success in providing medical books and other support to under-resourced, even war-torn, medical facilities and schools around the world shows how individuals coming together can do amazing things and assist those in need — a welcome contrast to the events that typically make international news. I am filled with tremendous pride and appreciation for the MAA. Six years later, the project continues to send books overseas. To date, medical-education resources valued at some $2.5 million have been donated and distributed to 20 countries. OML has exceeded my expectations.

It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. OML is certainly one example of the truth in that statement. On behalf of the patients and practitioners who have benefited from this program, I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to all those in the UCLA medical enterprise who have embraced this effort.

For more information, go to the OML blog: operationmedicallibraries.blogspot.com


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