Higher Education and Development for Archaeology and Environmental Health Research
SUNY at Stony Brook

An Introduction to the SBU Iraq-HEAD Program

Stony Brook University has been awarded a U.S. government grant of $4,131,274 to develop academic programs in environmental health and archaeology to strengthen the capacity of Iraqi universities. The effort will include professors, researchers, and physicians from Stony Brook's College of Arts and Sciences, School of Medicine, Marine Science Research Center, and the University Libraries.

The one-year award—made by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in support of the Coalition Provisional Authority’s overall reconstruction efforts in Iraq — is designed to provide tools for Iraqi universities to develop modern academic programs and curricula in the two areas. Stony Brook will partner with Baghdad University, Al Mustansiriyah University in Baghdad, Mosul University, and Basrah University. Elizabeth Stone, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, and Wajdy Hailoo, M.D., Professor of Preventive Medicine, will lead the project.

Iraq, or ancient Mesopotamia, is the “cradle of civilization”, the place where the first cities, writing, law, etc. developed. The physical and intellectual infrastructure for the study and protection of this critical heritage have been severely damaged during the past fifteen years of war and embargo. This is not a trivial issue since archaeology can play a profound role in shaping Iraq’s understanding of the potential for its civil future. Iraq’s many pasts provide alternative visions to that of the rigid, hierarchical state system imposed during its recent history. Iraq’s archaeological heritage provides many models for the rule of law, democratic institutions, federated political systems, and the checks and balances provided by multiple lines of political authority.

This grant will allow Stony Brook University to develop and modernize archaeological research, through a mixture of new teaching and research facilities in archeology at the Universities of Baghdad and Mosul, a graduate training program at Stony Brook University for recent graduates of these Universities, and workshops to update existing Iraqi faculty and graduate students, which will be led by renowned scholars, drawn from Boston University, Yale, Berkeley, the University of Oklahoma, and Copenhagen (Denmark), as well as Stony Brook. Stony Brook's University Library will provide both print and digital resources accessible through the Internet to libraries at the Universities of Baghdad and Mosul. Stony Brook’s Library also will create a new digital library of texts related to Mesopotamian culture and provide access to these texts over the Internet.

This effort will be led by Dr. Elizabeth C. Stone, a Mesopotamian archaeologist who has directed field research in Iraq, Syria and Turkey for more than two decades. A scholar with a wide international reputation, Dr. Stone is Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stony Brook University.

Iraq also faces acute and chronic environmental health problems, including contamination of the water supply and soil. The decline in environmental conditions has been accompanied by severely inadequate resources and a lack of medical professionals trained in environmental health. These conditions have contributed to an increase in mortality and morbidity from malnourishment, infectious diseases, and many other conditions associated with a failing public health system. In the post-Gulf War period, infant mortality rose to 103/1000 due to the severe health deterioration in the 1990s. Under-five mortality rates in Iraq are now among the worst in the world. According to the UNICEF, Iraq ranks 126th out of 174 on the U.N. Human Development Index; it ranked 50th out of 130 in 1990.

To enable Iraqis to address these issues, the Stony Brook consortium will establish three training and research centers in environmental health in Iraq, provide training in Iraq, as well as train 10 Iraqi faculty members at Stony Brook. Stony Brook will install three environmental analysis laboratories in Iraq, enabling Iraqi faculty and students to assess environmental problems and assist in the rebuilding of their country.

The effort will be headed by Dr. Hailoo, an environmental health expert with an international reputation. Dr. Hailoo is Professor of Preventive Medicine in the School of Medicine and Division Head of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at Stony Brook University Hospital. He has successfully directed many state and federal programs in the field of occupational and environmental medicine. Stony Brook faculty associated with its Center for Environmental Molecular Science and Long Island Ground Water Institute will participate in the effort.