Scott Kujath – 2016 INMED International Medicine Award Recipient

April 22nd, 2016 by Nicholas Comninellis
Posted in Global Health News & Inspiration|

kujath-scottThis award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to health in developing nations. Award recipients have demonstrated uncommon dedication and endurance in pursuit of this cause. The Institute for International Medicine is overjoyed to announce the 2016 INMED International Medicine Award Recipient: Scott Kujath.

 

Well known in Kansas City as an exception vascular surgeon, Dr. Kujath’s service reaches beyond the city’s borders. In cooperation with First Baptist Church of Raytown, Missouri, he leads the Mission of Hope Clinic, providing primary medical care and dental care to the region’s most under resourced people.

 

Dr Kujath also consistently serves in eastern Africa, both in providing direct medical care as well as pioneering in the innovative field of hospice and palliative care in connection with The Living Room, providing quality of life for Kenyans affected by HIV-AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses. Casting an effective vision for others to follow, Dr. Kujath has provided generous student scholarships for the INMED Conference since 2013.

 

Howard Searle – 2016 INMED Cross-Cultural Healthcare Leadership Award Recipient

April 15th, 2016 by Nicholas Comninellis
Posted in Global Health News & Inspiration, INMED Training Sites In Action|

searle-howardThis award recognizes one who has made significant leadership contributions to bridging cultural gaps in healthcare services and has set an example for other leaders to emulate. The Institute for International Medicine is very proud to honor the 2016 INMED Cross-Cultural Healthcare Leadership Award Recipient: Howard Searle.

 

In 1965 – fully fifty-one years ago – this Canadian surgeon was on his way to Mukinge Hospital in Zambia with AEF – Africa Evangelical Fellowship. Discerning that Mukinge was too well-established for his intentions, Dr. Searle instead turned towards the unique needs of India. In 1965 the Indian government began rejecting visa requests of US healthcare personnel. But Canadians still enjoyed ready access.

 

In the critical years between 1969 and 74, Dr. Searle was part of the innovative team of Indian leaders who guided Emmanuel Hospital Association (EHA) from reliance on international staff and donors to becoming entirely self-sufficient. Since then, EHA has grown to become the world’s largest indigenous medical mission; self-governed, self-funded, and self-staff. Dr. Searle continued serving at their side until 2005, when he retired to become Executive Director of EHA’s United States affiliate, a role in which he continues to serve today.

Impending Catastrophe: Collapse Of Mosul Dam

April 8th, 2016 by Nicholas Comninellis
Posted in Global Health News & Inspiration, International Public Health|

mosul_dam_map

 

ISIS poses violent threat to life and liberty. This is well known. CNN in December 2015 estimated that over a two-year period ISIS killed some 1,200 people in Iraq and Syria. But another far greater threat looms: Collapse Of Mosul Dam. Built on the Tigris River in the early 1980s, the unstable ground underneath the dam is constantly eroded by water. For years this has required maintenance by continuously poured cement under the dam’s foundation. Mosul Dam was captured by ISIS militants on August, 2014, and held it for several weeks before recapture. But for the last two years required reinforcement of the foundation continues to be sub par, in particular because ISIS still controls parts of that region.

 

Remember learning about the Fertile Crescent in grade school? This is exactly the region at risk. Downstream from Mosul Dam is a rich agricultural zone, home to some 1.5 million people, the city of Mosul, population 700,000. “If the dam fails, it will be catastrophic,” Gen. Lloyd Austin III told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “There will be thousands of people downstream that will either be injured or killed, certainly displaced. And the damage could extend all the way down to — close to Baghdad, or into Baghdad,” lying 200 miles to the south.

 

Disaster response is an intriguing topic. Some of the allure is similar to that of emergency medicine: action, heroism, immediate results, drama in real life. Disaster risk mitigation, like preventive medicine, lacks the immediate sense of passion and urgency. And it holds promise to preserve not only one thousand lives, but one million.

 

 

 

Eager To Assist: Kurds Welcome People Fleeing ISIS

April 1st, 2016 by Nicholas Comninellis
Posted in Global Health News & Inspiration, International Public Health|

yazidi-man

 

From the highest point in Duhok – northern Iraq’s and Kurdistan’s largest city – I am viewing the city of Mosul just 40 miles to the south. Mosul fell to ISIS 21 months ago, and the status of Mosul citizens is illustrated by the vast tent cities which lie between Mosul and Duhok. Tens of thousand reside in these camps: Iraqi Kurds fleeing the conflict in Mosul, Syrians fleeing the conflict in their homeland, and Iraqi minorities – including  Orthodox, Catholics, and the ethnic Yazidi photographed here.

 

What quality of response are these individuals and families receiving in Duhok from Iraqi Kurds? In a word: heartwarming. My personal interaction here with Kurdish officials, pastors, and healthcare professionals confirms a united spirit of compassion and action on behalf of refugees and IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons). Housing, food, clothing, schools, language training, healthcare, assist with locating relatives, and even legal aid for asylum seekers is provided in Kurdistan. Why is the attitude of the Kurds so very different from that of individuals in other regions, including many in the United States?

 

A glimpse of Kurdish history reveals an important clue: they are a people who themselves have repeatedly been suppressed and persecuted. I discern that as a result of their own sufferings the Kurds as a people have become more compassionate toward those seeking their assist.  Herein could lie what lesson for the rest of us?

Kurdistan – Refugee’s Home In A Battle Zone

March 18th, 2016 by Nicholas Comninellis
Posted in Global Health News & Inspiration, International Public Health|

 

“We lived our entire lives in Mosul – the ancient city of Nineveh – Jews, Christians, Muslims all side by side in peace. Then entered ISIS, threatening us with death or conversion.” The woman began swelling up with tears. “We were forced to flee, leaving all our belongings behind – animals, cars, clothes, books – and traveled by foot to Kurdistan. Here we are treated with great kindness; given a home, a place to worship, without threat. Thanks to God for the kindness of Kurds!”

 

This month I’m enjoying the hospitality of Lawand Talal, a Kurdish attorney who advocates for refugees in Kurdistan on behalf of UNHCR: The United Nations High Commission on Refugees. After 300 cups of tea, I am appreciating first hand how complex are the conflicting agendas of the powers in this region. But was is abundantly clear is that the people afflicted – mainly Syrians and Iraqis – overwhelming want simply to return and to live in peace. Refuge offered in neighboring Kurdistan, Greece, or the United States is admirable, but does not address their deepest desire: home.

 

The Poor Give Most

March 11th, 2016 by Nicholas Comninellis
Posted in Global Health News & Inspiration, International Public Health|

refugees-in-greece

 

“Sure, we Greeks have economic problems,” my cousin’s voice turns emphatic, “but these people, they have nothing at all.” Visiting my family in Athens this week, I’m touched by the personal expressions of compassion. “Some of the refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria are housed in Piareas – the Athens port. My friends and I are gathering blankets and clothes to take down and give to them.”

 

Peter Comninellis provides a glimpse of the humanitarian crisis, where each day some 2,000 refugees are arriving on Greece’s shores with only their clothes and pocket change. In an era where countries, and many of the United States, are turning their back to the plight, Greece individuals and as a nation is stepping up their action of compassion.

 

How is it that one of the Europe’s most economically troubled people are also leading their world in providing such care? In a fascinating research study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Forbes Magazine reports how in the aftermath of the 2008 Recession, the wealthiest Americans are giving less to charity, while the poorest are giving more. These finding should spark some careful introspection around the Beatitude that “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

 

Humanity And INMED’s Inner Culture

March 4th, 2016 by Nicholas Comninellis
Posted in Global Health News & Inspiration|

humanity

 

Public persona and private personality are often dissimilar, and what you read and see of INMED may or may not reflect reality. Permit me to lay open an element of INMED’s inner culture: We value people. We regard all individuals as created and loved by God, and in this light we respect their dignity, uniqueness, and intrinsic worth – regardless of wealth, social status, and or even ability to reciprocate our efforts. We aim to communicate this virtue in all of our working relationships, including staff, volunteers, donors, community, and those receiving our support.

 

How this is expressed from day to day will of course vary depending upon the venue. Most of our communication is via email, web and video. While efficient, these arms-length modalities can often create impersonal sentiments of distance. Fully aware of these barriers, we are intentional to express our respect and concern. And when we enjoy face-to-face interaction, we do our best to enjoy and to take advantage of these personal interactions.

 

I am frequently asked what is the best part of my life with INMED since 2003. Without a doubt it is remarkable people in this field whom I have met. Generally speaking, they possess high ideals, deep personal faith and are quite intentional about making a substantial investment to benefit the world’s most marginalized. What a blessing to enjoy the presence of such inspiring people!

Zika vs Malaria – What’s All The Fuss?

February 26th, 2016 by Nicholas Comninellis
Posted in Global Health News & Inspiration|

malariamosquito

 

Did you ever hear of Zika prior to this year? Doubtful. Yet this virus has been tracked since the 1950s. It causes a mild acute illness, and when pregnant women become infected it may be connected with serious congenital disorders. Zika has similarities with malaria: Both are infections transmitted via mosquito. Both occur in more tropical climates. But over one million people die from malaria each year, mostly African children under five years of age, and some 300-600 million people suffer from often serious malaria illness each year. What’s more, the risk of miscarriage among pregnant women with malaria increases five-fold.

 

By contrast, human death from Zika has yet to be confirmed, and the connection with congenital disorders is less than substantiated. So what’s all the fuss over Zika? For one, we news consumers are fixated on threats from infectious diseases. Remember our reactions to swine flu, SARS, bird flu, Ebola? Now in all fairness, it is possible that these infections could possibly become global and pandemic in proportion. But in the meantime, we in the United States are essentially allowing media hype to set public policy: Our president, congress, and health agencies are suddenly pressing massive resources, $1.3 billion, against the Zika’s potential for dissemination, while US government funding for malaria intervention remains flat at $600 million.

 

What does this say about our rationale and priorities? What will we say to the families of the 3,000 people who died today from malaria? What will be our words to the infected mothers whose babies were lost in pregnancy? And to those tens of thousands, who at this moment are vomiting and convulsing from malaria, what will be our explanation over not devoting at least parallel resources to their needs?

 

World’s Most Powerful People

February 6th, 2016 by Nicholas Comninellis
Posted in INMED Grads In Action, INMED Training Sites In Action|

Most-powerful-People-on-Planet

 

This week we witnessed the Iowa Caucuses. Next week come the New Hampshire Primaries. Each display some of our nation’s most popular, influential people. But there exists power of a vastly different character and magnitude. The book of Matthew records Jesus’ reference to such power: “Jesus called his disciples together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave'” ~ Matthew 20:25-26

 

Servant power. One example is Tammy Callaway. Today she’s a nurse living in Kansas City, and a student in the INMED International Public Health Hybrid Course. And tomorrow? Let Tammy tell the story, “I came to the Exploring Medical Missions Conference last year hosted at Graceway Church and really enjoyed meeting everyone and going through the different stations. My family and I are planning to depart in June 16 to Zambia. We will actually be living at the Kafulafuta Mission station where one of the INMED Training Sites: Mushili Health Center.  I plan on assisting at the clinic, and I’m looking forward to taking this course to help me at that mission.”

China – INMED’s New Course Venue

January 29th, 2016 by Nicholas Comninellis
Posted in Global Health News & Inspiration, INMED Action Steps For You, INMED Training Sites In Action|

china-course

 

Since 2004 INMED has been providing supervised, formative experiences for healthcare personnel to serve in the world’s poorest communities via locations in twenty-five developing nations, as well as the United States. Accompanying this service-learning are robust courses covering the principles of international medicine and public health. Until now, these courses were offered only at United States locations: Glendale CA, Fort Worth TX, Kansas City MO, Kirksville MO, and Pittsburgh PA. Over the last two years INMED’s leader have explored potential course sites outside of the US, and today we’re animated to announce…

 

Shenyang, China, is now an INMED course location. H’Image Doctor and LIGHT Family Medicine Residency, situated in Shenyang, regularly receives INMED learners for their service learning experience, and now also host the INMED International Medicine & Public Health Hybrid Course. The online section begins on February 22, and the in-classroom section will be held on July 18-19. Here are the China Course Details. Who will take advantage of this particular offering? Chinese physicians and academic, Western physicians working in China, and the large number of foreign students earning healthcare degrees in China. You, too, are invited to consider this training opportunity, and to also become acquainted with some of the most inspiring people in Asia!