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Local doctor to lead Iraqi health care

By ANITA KUMAR, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 4, 2003

An Iraqi-born doctor at the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines will oversee the U.S. government's plan to rebuild the health care system in Iraq after the war ends.

Dr. Said Hakky, a urologist who worked for Saddam Hussein before fleeing to the United States in 1982, began working in Washington two weeks ago at the Department of Defense.

"He feels good about going back," said his brother, Sam Hakki, also a Pinellas County doctor. "He's ready to go there any time to serve."

Hakky, 59, was an influential doctor in private practice in Baghdad when he was handpicked by Hussein to work in the presidential palace and oversee the nation's health care system.

His brother said he accepted the job because he had no choice. "If you're reluctant, you'll be executed," said Hakki, who spells his name differently from his brother.

Hakky could not be reached for comment Thursday. But on Wednesday, he told 60 Minutes II, a CBS news show, that he feels obligated to go back to Iraq for the first time in two decades.

"There are Americans there who are not even Iraqis over there, and they're dying for a cause. So the least I can do is be there," he said.

Hakky, who has worked at the VA Medical Center since 1985, took a leave without pay two weeks ago. The VA does not know when he will return, spokesman Larry Christman said.

Hakky, who also is affiliated with the University of South Florida, is married and has six children. His family lives in Largo.

The family has relatives, including first cousins, who still live in Iraq. Hakki said he doesn't know how they have fared in the war.

"They are suffering a lot from bombing, but there has been so much pain and oppression for so many years," he said.

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