What Shall Your Conquests Be?

September 26th, 2014 by Nicholas Comninellis | Comments Off

arab-horsemen.jgp“I am Shutruk Nahunte, King of Anshand and Sussa, Sovereign of the land of Elam. I destroyed Sippar, took the sword of Niran-Sin, and brought it back to Elam, where I erected it as an offering to my god.” ~ Shutruk Nahunte, 1158 BC. Regarding this inscription above his classroom door Professor William Hundert in The Emperor’s Club (2002 Movie) comments: “It’s a quote from a virtually unknown king, who speaks of his list of conquests, but speaks nothing about the benefits. This king is unknown in history, because ‘Great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance.’ What will your contribution be? How will history remember you?”

 

In popular culture today we honor, reward, and often envy people who succeed in difficult conquests. The nature of their conquests often appears to be of lesser importance than the fact that a great obstacle was confronted and subdued: a battle was won, an elusive discovery was made, a peace was secured. I would offer, however, that conquests differ greatly in their nature and their value. As Professor Hundert affirms, “Conquest without contribution is without significance.”

 

And so it is imperative that we each singularly consider the enduring value of the challenges were choose to confront. Three questions may help to clarify such value: Would your mother applaud? Would this make your children proud? Would this cause God to smile? In such light, what shall your conquests be?

What Healthcare Field Or Specialty Should You Enter?

September 22nd, 2014 by Nicholas Comninellis | Comments Off

choices-signThis decision is often bewildering. As a young person proceeding through healthcare education you face increasingly complex choices that touch on academic ability, financial debt and earning potential, social pressures, prestige and reputation, non-career interests and responsibilities, and personal passions. You likely have considerable freedom of choice, and with that freedom can come marked anxiety.

 

My short answer is, choose the field or specialty that most interests you. What do you dream about, think of in your off hours, or imagine yourself doing with pleasure and pride? This may well be your very best selection.

 

Those of you interested in the world’s most low-resource communities may be under the misconception that only primary care specialties are appropriate in such settings. While it is indeed true that the greatest needs in developing nations are in public health and primary care, there is also an important role for specialists. Physical therapists, ophthalmologists, midwives, orthopedists, pharmacists, plastic surgeons, and researchers, for example, all have unique talents to offer.

 

Teaching opportunities – generally better suited for more narrow specialists – are constantly expanding and offer influential positions from which to multiply your skills and impact. There also is a real possibility that at some point in your career you will practice among more affluent people. For all these reasons, I believe you will do best in pursuing a field or specialty in which you are genuinely interested.

Should People Of Faith Be Allowed In Global Health?

September 20th, 2014 by Nicholas Comninellis | Comments Off

india-faithShould people of faith be allowed to participate in global health discussions or initiatives? Does not their spiritual orientation create ulterior motives and cause them to take advantage of people in need? How can those that may believe in a supernatural Being or an afterlife be considered respectable, professional colleagues in undertakings of such great importance? Such questions I encounter regularly in my interactions through the Institute for International Medicine, where it is my constant pleasure to interface with people from the entire spectrum of world views.

 

How many of today’s universities and health care facilities bear names like Jewish, Catholic, Baptist, or Presbyterian? By what sort of citizens were such institutions founded? Who is familiar with the predecessors of global health – individuals like Albert Schweitzer, David Livingston, and Mother Theresa? What was the spiritual orientation of such people? Today, what role does faith play among those who dedicate not just a few days, but year after year of their lives in devotion to the world’s most poor – people like those on staff at INMED Training Sites throughout Asia, Africa, and the Americas?

 

What do you think? Should people of faith be allowed to participate in global health?

Babies In Dumpsters And A Moral Imperative

September 15th, 2014 by Nicholas Comninellis | Comments Off

children-lookingA disturbing thought, indeed. Marek Banas, a medical student at Lincoln Memorial University, completed his INMED service-learning experience at The Surgery, a general practice clinic in Kampala, capital of Uganda. I find his account to be one of the most compelling of all our students have written…

 

“The Surgery is potentially the best clinic in Uganda,” she affirms. “People who did not have a conclusive diagnosis came from all over southern the country, as well as neighboring southern African nations to be helped by The Surgery doctors and other staff.” Marek continues, “Patients include wealthy Ugandans, tourists, expatriates… and abandoned infants – who are occasionally brought into The Surgery after being found on the street or in dumpsters.”

 

Many healthcare professionals are enamored with the possibility of international service. Yet relatively few ultimately sample such an experience or go on to make this a part of their continuing career. In reply to what motivates his, Marek says, “My desire to help the marginalized people springs from a moral imperative I found in myself years ago. I feel I have been lucky in life and it is my responsibility to share my fortune with the forgotten ones.”

Criticism Against Good Samaritans

September 10th, 2014 by Nicholas Comninellis | Comments Off

good-samaritan-modernThe debate surrounding Kent Brantly, the American physician serving in Liberia who became infected with Eboli, is representative of the dilemmas faced by many of us who are lead by good intentions. “Why wasn’t he taking care of his own people back home?” “It’s irresponsible to put himself and his family in such a dangerous place.” “All those resources spent on rescuing him could have been used to assist other people who are not so privileged.” And perhaps the most painful of all, “He really wasn’t doing much good over there anyway.”

 

You may be personally engaged in any number of virtuous ministries or missions. How do you respond when you receive parallel criticism? First, find comfort in the fact that “No good deed goes unpunished.” It’s a known occupational hazard that those who do good will be regularly criticized. Second, remember that ours is an enormously large world filled with infinite needs. In selecting which ones to particularly intervene we must assess our personal passions and resources. No one else can do this for us, and everyone one else must respect our decisions. And finally, you may be especially heartened as I am by this promise from Matthew 25 beginning in verse 31, “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…”

 

Our Response To Great Evil

September 4th, 2014 by Nicholas Comninellis | Comments Off

Syruan Refugeesnorthern iraqThe horrific recent videos of murders allegedly committed by the Islamic State In Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are deeply disturbing and provocative. They remind me of how very great is the potential for humans to willingly instigate and participate in great evil. As youngsters, the neighbors of these assailants surely could not have imagined them plunging into such reprobate behavior. Similar impressions are recorded by the contemporaries of Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and Ho Chi Minh. We do well to remain vigilant about humankind’s inherent potential for cruelty.

 

But where evil abounds so does opportunity for great compassion and acts of extraordinary kindness. My treasured friend, Lawand, a US-educated Kurdish attorney living in northern Iraqi, just departed his esteemed position to provide full-time aid to the thousand of refugees fleeing ISIS. Lawand is embodying the assurance documented in 1 Peter 1:4, “Jesus’ divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these Jesus has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” As we witness great evil, both near our homes and abroad, we do well to remain steadfast to overcome great evil with compelling goodness.

Which EMMC Cluster Is Best For You?

September 2nd, 2014 by Nicholas Comninellis | Comments Off

2015-emmc-themeOn behalf of the world’s most disadvantage people, what can you do in ten minutes? What about ten days? What can you do to effectively promote global health in ten months, or even over a period of ten years? The 10th annual, 2015 INMED Exploring Medical Missions Conference (EMMC) theme question is What Can You Do In Ten? This year’s conference will also feature Clusters: sessions that combine brief introduction, hands-on skill development, and practical applications opportunities. You can select from clusters on Pediatric Care, Organizational Action, Mother/Baby Care, Crossing Cultures, Faith with a Mission, Displaced But Not Forgotten, Development Beyond a Band-Aid, Trauma: Life in the Mission Hospital, and My Global Community. Myself, I’ll be leading the International Medicine Cluster. Here we will quickly review leading tropical diseases, practice the logic of differential diagnosis with one another, and then try out our skill with patient actors in simulated settings around the world.

 

Which EMMC Cluster is best for you? Select those that match your particular skills, whether in nursing, administration, therapy, dentistry, pharmacy, public health or medicine. Or, you can test out new fields beyond your current expertise or experience. Six Cluster opportunities will be available during the event. But please remember that space available for each Cluster is limited, so register very soon, and I will look forward to meeting you on Friday and Saturday, May 29-30, 2015!

 

Ebola Vs The World

August 27th, 2014 by Nicholas Comninellis | Comments Off

leading-cause-of-death-africaWhy is Ebola such a concerning crisis? The fact that this is an unusual disease sparks intrigue. That it is contagious from person to person engenders particular alarm. But while I empathize with those who are ill, we also do well to consider the broader picture of health on the African continent. My colleague Tim Kubaki, veteran physician in Brazil and Angola aptly observes, “Ebola has killed 1300 people so far. Eight times this number die from malnutrition every DAY… Malaria kills this number every DAY… 4000 die from HIV every DAY… 3000 kids die from pneumonia every DAY… 2000 kids die from diarrhea every DAY… all preventable, all treatable… Where’s the outrage and concern for these?” Dr. Kubaki’s viewpoint is critical. For a pectoral representation, please study the above cause of death for Africa as a whole.

 

I personally hope that such a “global perspective” will motivate concerned people like you and I to not simply react with emotion over today’s crisis in West Africa.  Rather, let us respond in a manner that demonstrates sincere compassion for these people acutely afflicted and that activates effective strategies to build healthier communities in partnership with West Africans. Without such an approach, we will continue to find ourselves simply reacting with intrigue and alarm to each future crisis.

How Would You Handle This Fracture?

August 21st, 2014 by Nicholas Comninellis | Comments Off

femur-fracture-displacedI’m holding up to the window a plain X-ray (remember those?) from a young man in acute pain that fell from a moving bus in Angola, southern Africa. As you can see, the femur fracture is displaced and shortened. As you cannot see, this is also an open fracture. Bony fragments have pierced the skin of his thigh. Beyond pain control and initial debridement, how would you manage this man’s orthopedic injury?

 

Since the 1970s surgical fixation of such fractures with an intramedullary nail inserted into the femur has the standard of care. Fracture healing from this procedure is rapid and effective, with union rates of between 95% and 99%. However, in the face of an open fracture such procedures in the immediate setting must be delayed until infection risk has suitable declined. And, in this particular African locale no orthopedic or anesthesia specialist is available.

 

femur-tractionThe general approach to such management is monitored traction. A Steinmann pin is inserted just below the tibial tubercle  at the time of admission or after initial debridement of the open fracture wounds. Traction beginning with 7 to 8 kg is applied, with the foot of the bed elevated to prevent the patient from sliding forward. Follow up evaluation of the fracture every few days is necessary to assess bony reduction and adequacy of alignment.

 

Over the ensuing weeks traction should be intermittently lifted to allow the still non-weight bearing patient to mobilize the knee and lessen the risk of joint contracture. After 8-12 weeks of bed rest, and assurance of new bone formation at the fracture site, traction can be suspended and the patient encouraged to begin progressive weight bearing and rehabilitation from the muscle atrophy associated with prolonged immobilization.

 

Reference: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2266653/

 

People To Watch: INMED Intensive Course Grads

August 18th, 2014 by Nicholas Comninellis | Comments Off

2014-08-intensive-classOn Saturday we completed the 2014 Late Summer INMED International Medicine & Public Health Intensive Courses – events that consistently attracted some of the world’s most remarkable participants. Please let me introduce you to just a few: Joseph Muroka, a native Kenyan with a passion for his own people, who just graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy. Robert Schneider, a Spanish-speaking academic family physician from AT Still University, who consistently serves in Central America. Ann Nichols, a nurse from California intent on better serving her immigrant and refugee community. Elise Wouters, an undergraduate from Alberta, Canada, pursing a career in international law and justice. Jared Wilmoth, a medical student from the University of Kansas already with extensive service experience in the Middle East. And Katy Kettler, pursuing her graduate degree in international public health. Observe the careers of these remarkable people, and be inspired!