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Make A Lasting Contribution: Teach Your Skills



“This woman is in labor, but the baby just will not descend!” Dr. Akua spoke anxiously and with good reason. He’d just graduated from medical school in Ghana and only yesterday joined me at the Baptist Medical Center in northern Ghana to begin his years of public service. We examined the lady, found her contractions to be strong and the baby in good position. “She looks safe for the moment,” I said. “Let’s recheck in 2 hours.”


Each year some 5,000 teams leave the United States to provide healthcare in developing nations. Most of these trips are for 1 to 2 weeks and provide episodic care. One most commonly expressed frustration of participants is that once they depart the host community, little continuity of care is available to the people whom they served.


How can we contribute to lasting care and progress in the world’s most impoverished communities – like sites in northern Ghana, urban India, or rural Papua New Guinea? This is a theme question of the INMED Exploring Medical Missions Conference. Clearly our efforts to support basic literacy and economic development are foundational. In the realm of providing direct medical care, consider what happened next in Ghana…


“Dr. Comninellis,” exclaimed Dr. Akua, “I examined the woman again. The baby is still not descending.”


I verified his exam and agreed. “Akua, how should we manage this complication?”


Akua’s voice grew quite serious. “Oh doctor, you must perform a Cesarean right away.”


I shook my head. “No Akua,” I replied, “YOU must perform the Cesarean.”


Akua’s eye grew very large. “Doctor, I have never witnessed this surgery.”


“Yes, but when I leave just ten days from now, you will be the only physician at Baptist Medical Center . It’s time for you to learn!” One-hour later mother and baby were fine following Akua’s successfully-performed operation. Throughout the following week we managed several complicated patients in labor, and Akua’s surgical and decision-making skills steadily rose. And today he is still caring for his own people in Ghana.


Equipping local citizens is one of the most effective ways to make a lasting improvement on communities in distress. Several reputable programs are doing just this:


Helping Babies Breath of the American Academy of Pediatrics teaches newborn resuscitation for midwives and birth attendants in low-resource settings.

Heifer International provides training in livestock and agricultural management to boost economic development in low resource communities

International Literacy Institute is a headquarters for worldwide movements to promote reading skills in developing nations.


Training The Trainer is a theme of this year’s INMED Exploring Medical Missions Conference. Please join us on May 20-21 as we encourage our colleagues to move beyond simply providing care and towards building resiliency in local health care providers. Someday one of them may benefit a life because you taught you skills!

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