Posts Tagged: USA

2015: Alison Marshall, MD, Cambridge, USA

Thank you to the Spirit Award for providing me with the opportunity to attend the Humanitarian Response Intensive Course (HRIC) hosted by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. It’s been a long time dream of mine to attend this two-week workshop and it was made possible by the class of 2010.

HRIC brings humanitarians together from all over the world to learn, collaborate and their field of practice. It focuses on the tenets of humanitarian intervention and the historical context that informed these tenets. Unfortunately, humanitarian response has all too often been initiated without sufficient forethought resulting in further harm instead of relief. As doctors it’s so easy to jump at international opportunities to care for those in need, but HRIC provides a sobering reminder of the pitfalls that follow poorly planned interventions. Medical care is only as sustainable as the system providing it and unsustainable solutions may actually do more harm than good.

This year the workshop hosted 70 students ranging in age from 22 to 65, many of who have been practicing in the humanitarian world for decades. I was particularly struck by participants whose lives were directly shaped by conflict and disaster, forcing them to cut short their formal education in order to enter the humanitarian field. For example, there was a young Syrian at the workshop who had dropped out of university, moved to Lebanon and started working for an NGO to provide safe passage and shelter for Syrian refugees. He was one example of many HRIC participants who dedicate their lives to the humanitarian imperative:

That action should be taken to prevent or alleviate human suffering arising out of disaster or conflict, and that nothing should override this principle.

I was deeply moved by the embodiment of this principle among people who have been afforded lives far less flexible than mine. It was the most diverse and accomplished classroom I have ever been in. HRIC and the colleagues I met there inspired me to be pragmatic without sacrificing my ideals. This is an uncomfortable interplay full of compromise, but one that ultimately allows for evolution of my practice as a physician and a humanitarian.

2014: Charles Pearce, MD, San Francisco, USA

Thanks to the generosity of the class of 2010, I was afforded the chance to participate in Kaiser Permanate's elective in mass gather medicine during America's Cup. The elective took place during the latter part of the summer of 2013 and involved a fascinating combination of policy discussion, large scale medical operations, and daily shifts in a makeshift emergency room. The fact that the provision of care was no different than any emergency department was itself remarkable; the coordination and planning required in this undertaking was laid out in a series of lectures and meetings with city and hospital administrators as well as regional disaster experts.

I walked into this elective wanting to expand my breadth and depth of both experience and knowledge in the field of mass gathering medicine. I walked out with an expansive appreciation for a burgeoning academic field, spurring on an interest in arenas of remote medicine, telemedicine, international medical ethics and operations. Most of the faculty mentors/instructors have ongoing involvement in disaster medical response teams and USAR and through them, I too have been moving in that direction through regional and state fire and rescue training and service.

2013: Amit Phul MD, Manhattan, USA

The Spirit of 2010 allowed me to spend my elective living and working in Manhattan as a medical correspondent for ABC News' Medical Unit. During the elective, I was responsible for vetting the information in news stories that ABC News was actively pursuing for on-air coverage. It was a great experience to be able to see how medical information is communicated to the lay public, and how important it is for news to be true and accurate, as it is how many people in the public get their health information. Thanks to the Class of 2010 for helping me have this great experience.