We landed in Johannesburg, SA a few hours ago and are now hunkered down in our beautiful hotel rooms. The flight was an easy 15 hours once we finally became airborne, though I will tell you that my feet were so swollen by the end of it that my 'slip-on' boots turned into 'pull-pull-pull-jump-up-and-down-boots.' Dr. Charles was smart and wore compression socks. I'll remember for the way home.
I should really start this by saying a giant thank you to the UNC School of Medicine who has been kind enough to sponsor 3 international trips throughout my medical school career. Without scholarship money I certainly would not have been able to go on this trip to Malawi (for the second time) and the trip to Honduras earlier this year. So to all who made this possible, thank you. Truly this has changed my life trajectory and future career plans.
I also re-read an article yesterday that I think is very interesting. It came out about a year ago, but was republished somewhere this week and I think it brings up some great points.
I recommend that you read the article but in summation, this is a very privileged, highly educated woman who has spent her adult life working for NGOs in developing countries and now feels some very strong reservations about the money spent on "voluntourism." Very timely read for me as I constantly try and assess- is the work that we do actually making a difference, and perhaps more importantly- is this a sustainable change that will continue? Am I wasting money that could be better spent through a donation to local people and organizations themselves? This is something I have struggled with, whether it be during my time teaching or on global health trips- is this whole scenario meant to make us (the often white, privileged, Americans) feel better or does it actually accomplish something that persists when we leave... Surely Joey and I have had many conversations about this sentiment and Teach for America and I don't think there is an actual answer on what is right or wrong. My experiences as a teacher and as a participant in global health projects have changed my idea of what it means to be a human and a doctor. Feel free to comment below on your thoughts and I'll try to respond.
When thinking about the UNC Malawi Surgery/Burn initiative, I am fully sure that the goal of this project is sustainable change. When you are "teaching someone to fish" or in the case of this project specificially- training surgeons- your impact should be long lasting. The goal of this project is not to make us (UNC) feel good but it's to learn and grow with each other, and to train and supply surgeons from the part of the world where they will hopefully stay and practice surgery, for the populations that so desperately need them.
I'm excited to be back (!!!), to learn from some great Kumuzu Central Hospital surgeons as well as UNC faculty, and to continue to gain surgical knowledge and skills, specific skills for resource poor areas, and to gain some firsthand experience in successful and sustainable global partnerships.
I will be gone until March 18th and will be back in the states for Match day, where I will find out where I will be a resident in training for General Surgery residency.
Thanks to you all for reading. I did bring my big camera and promise to take some photos when it's actually daytime and when we get to Lilongwe. Please continue to follow along with me!
Love to you all (especially to family, friends, and mentors reading),
If you would like to make a donation to the ongoing work
of the excellent folks at Kumuzu Central Hospital and the UNC Department
of Surgery Burn and Surgical Initiative please visit the address below: