Category Archives: Volunteering internationally

Volunteering in international settings, cultural awareness, global citizenship

Student Spotlight: Ariel

For our newest Student Spotlight we introduce CFHI Alumni Ariel from California. In June this year Ariel chose our program Healthcare Challenges with focus on Hospital & Inpatient Medicine, HIV/AIDS and Global Health Nursing. She went to Cape Town in South Africa for 5 Weeks. A few months after her return, we asked for a short reflection on her adventure:

 

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CFHI Alumni Ariel in South Africa

A little about Ariel:

I am a third year biological sciences major at UC Davis. After graduating from Davis I want to pursue a career in health by becoming a nurse practitioner or PA. Studying abroad was one of the experiences I was most excited for when I came to college. When I heard about an internship abroad opportunity through CFHI it seemed like the perfect fit.

 

Why she chose CFHI:

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I chose CFHI for a number of important reasons to me. First, I wanted to experience living in a new country to really understand the culture and daily lives of another part of the world. I chose Cape Town because the city seemed like such a lively place with so much to do and so much history to learn about regarding Apartheid. The best way to truly get a feeling for another way of life is to immerse yourself in the country’s culture. I had never been to Africa so I was super excited to learn about a new continent and compare the healthcare challenges with the ones we face in the States. Also, volunteering at Community Day Centers and observing procedures at a pediatric hospital in Cape Town were unlike any other opportunities I had had in the past. Through CFHI, I was able to witness healthcare first hand and be a part of a typical day for physicians right in the middle of the action.

What is next for Ariel:

Taking part in a CFHI program opened my eyes to the different fields of medicine and global healthcare. Before I went to Cape Town, I thought I was set on going into nursing. After going through rounds with med students, watching surgeries, and attending lectures and tutorials, the experience influenced me to consider a PA program. Also, it confirmed my inclination that I want to work in pediatrics. I plan on becoming involved with one of the student run clinics at UC Davis to get more experience with patients. If I was given the opportunity after I become licensed, I would definitely work in a hospital in another country for a longer period of time.

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Seeing India Through New Eyes: An Indian-American Student’s Study Abroad Experience

In December 2014, I left the comforts of San Francisco to take part in the Public Health & Community Medicine in India program through Child Family Health International (CFHI). During my 4 weeks in northern India, I had the opportunity to engage with and learn from various non-governmental organizations that are tackling public health challenges like injection drug use, sanitation, and prostitution. For the first week, we worked with a WHO-recognized organization in Chandigardh that focuses on women and children’s health care. One of my fondest memories from this experience was being able to interact with the female sex workers that this NGO helps. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Aditi*, who told me how her hardships from back home forced her to become a sex worker in order to keep her children in school. Listening to Aditi’s story really put my life into perspective. Aditi, who is a mom, sister, wife, and daughter, was literally sacrificing her own body for the sake of her children, something only a strong individual would be able to do. I couldn’t help or stop Aditi from being a sex worker, however what I could do was be someone she could talk to, someone who would listen to her, even if only for a short amount of time. It was an exchange of hellos, an exchange of respect, and an exchange of appreciation that I could give Aditi, and ironically, in the end, what she gave me. This experience taught me that it is impossible to understand a public health issue like prostitution without understanding the human beings whom it affects.

DeepaWhen I embarked on this experience, it had been 6 years since my last visit to India. The transformation I saw in the country was phenomenal. I noticed improvements in infrastructure and cultural changes. Years ago, the topics of HIV/AIDS or sex workers were very taboo. No one liked to acknowledge any health risks and the government wasn’t doing much to spread awareness of such issues. Visiting the country now and witnessing the many programs the government has implemented within each state was inspirational. Programs such as NACO have made such a difference in the lives of countless people across northern India by providing necessary services and supplies to lead a healthier and safer lifestyle. Apart from HIV/AIDS, I also witnessed changes in the caste system in India. In this system, “untouchables” are deemed to be the lowest caste because of their occupation of being scavengers (individuals who clean up human waste from homes due to lack of toilets). This program gave us the opportunity to work with a UN-recognized social service organization based in Delhi that is committed to getting rid of the untouchables caste by creating a toilet complex system to implement in villages across the country.

Being an Indian-American, I was able to appreciate India in a manner I never had before. I had always heard about various problems in India, whether it was about the spread of HIV/AIDS or the controversial caste system, but I always felt helpless living more than 8,000 miles away. Through CFHI, I was lucky enough to meet people like Aditi, and listen to their stories to understand what really is going on in the world outside of our own bubble in America. Often times, I have heard my very own friends and family who are Indian-American comment on how “backwards” India is in terms of development and simple progressive ideology about issues pertaining to HIV/AIDS. By experiencing India first hand, I now have the knowledge and experience to educate my friends and family and help them be more aware of important public health issues. Reading and hearing the news about India is one thing, but actually being within India’s space and engaging with the people of that country helps put these issues in perspective.

UntitledAs a senior graduating college soon, I am at the crossroads where I have to choose what I want to pursue for the rest of my life. After my 4 weeks in India, I realized that this trip wasn’t coming to an end for me, it was just the beginning.  CFHI not only gave me clarity, but also a sense of direction. The CFHI program solidified my decision to pursue a career in the field of public health. Prior to the program, I knew that I wanted to obtain my MPH, however I wasn’t clear on what specialty to emphasize in. This trip exposed me to the world of global health and made me realize that it would be the perfect field within public health for me. CFHI not only helped me fall in Iove with India again, but it also helped give me a sense of purpose that I perhaps would not have found without this trip.

*Name has been changed to respect privacy. 

Special thanks to our guest blogger, CFHI alumna Deepa Mistry, for authoring this post.

Alumni Spotlight: Q&A with Alana D’Onofrio

Alana D’Onofrio participated in CFHI’s program Exploring HIV & Maternal/Child Health in Kabale, Uganda in September 2014. She is an aspiring physician assistant and recent graduate of Northern Arizona University, where she majored in Biomedical Sciences.

Q. How did you hear about CFHI? What attracted you to the Uganda program?

I heard about CFHI through the study abroad program at Northern Arizona University. CFHI was highly recommended to me. It had always been a passion of mine to volunteer in Africa and experience the culture there—that is what attracted me to the Uganda program.

Q. What were your goals going in to the program? How did CFHI help you in achieving those?

IMG_8705My goals going into the program were really to gain knowledge—whether that be medical or healthcare knowledge, or knowledge of a different culture and how people live, eat, dance, work, etc. in a country completely foreign to me. CFHI helped me accomplish these goals. Their partner organization in Kabale has some very special staff members who were willing to teach me so much. They allowed me to ask any question, explained everything about the people of Uganda and their culture, and made me feel very comfortable.

Q. How did the program impact you?

The program impacted me greatly. It solidified my goals of wanting to go into a healthcare career because I learned how much I love working with patients. I also feel more worldly. I now know so much about a country in Africa where very few Americans travel to. I know about the people, the food, the music, and the languages of Uganda. I saw how amazing the people that live there are, how simply they live, and how much they enjoy life no matter how hard it is. The people there inspired me to live my life like them and to never take anything you have for granted.

Q. What were the highlights of your experience?

I have so many highlights of my time in Uganda. One highlight would be heading down to the clinic everyday, excited to see the staff and looking forward to what I was going to learn or see that day. The relationships that I established with the staff are another highlight. We had amazing conversations and always had so much fun. Other highlights include traveling to villages for outreaches to treat people who could not make it to the main clinic in Kabale, hiking the Muhavura Volcano in Kisoro, and going on a safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Q. How has the program changed your perception of health? 

IMG_9148I now understand the diversity of health. Health in Uganda is very different than health in America, yet there are many similarities. There are diseases unique to East Africa that I was able to see and study. There are also differences in the way people are treated and diagnosed for these conditions. The diagnostic tests in Uganda are much more limited, therefore many cases are not solved. Certain conditions and diseases that are treated easily in America are not easily treated in Uganda and are sometimes fatal because people do not have the money to pay for healthcare services or because they wait until that last minute to get checked out.

Q. Who was the most inspiring person you met on the program?

The most inspiring person I met was Allen. He is a medical officer who works under Dr. Anguyo at the KIHEFO clinic and he is the preceptor who I shadowed. He has such a passion to help and treat others. The clinic is very understaffed and Allen wants to go back to school to become more qualified in certain areas such as radiology, so that he can help the clinic even more. While he treated patients, he was so patient and always took the time to explain things to me. Overall, he was a great teacher and such a passionate healthcare worker.

Q. How has your worldview changed?

I knew so little of Uganda and even the continent of Africa before my trip. Africa is not at all like what is portrayed of it on the news. Obviously there are parts with war, disease, and extreme poverty, but there are also amazing things about Africa that I was able to see. I no longer associate one country of Africa with the whole continent. Each country is unique.

 

Special thanks to Alana D’Onofrio for allowing us to interview her for this post.

CFHI Convenes Pre-health Advisors for Workshop on Global Health Best Practices

Advising Students on Health Experiences Abroad

On June 26th, I collaborated on a workshop entitled “Beyond the Basics: Advising Students on Health Experiences Abroad,” led by Child Family Health International (CFHI) Executive Director Dr. Jessica Evert and Tricia Todd, MPH, Assistant Director of the University of Minnesota Health Careers Center. The workshop coincided with the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions (NAAHP) Annual Conference, held this year in San Francisco. Advisors arrived at CFHI’s San Francisco headquarters in to a full house with over 20 attendees representing 15 different colleges and universities. Small Liberal Arts colleges from Maine were particularly well represented, with advisors from Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby College in attendance.CFHI Advising Health Students Workshop

As a grad student of International Education Management, I was interested to observe the backgrounds represented amongst the attendees. Some were faculty in science departments, some staff from career development offices, and others from programs specifically geared towards global health. What everyone had in common was knowledge of issues relating to advising pre-health students, and all expressed worries regarding the growth of an “industry” to meet the rapidly growing demand from students seeking health-training programs abroad.

Health Students Doing Too Much, Too Soon – How to Choose Reputable Programs

The issue of the commodification of education abroad, which I was familiar with from graduate courses, took on greater significance when discussing health-related programs where issues of medical ethics and patient safety come into play. In such cases, not only are students being sold an education abroad “experience”, but unethical program providers tell students that they will be able to perform clinical work that exceeds their training and “change the world” through their work, effectively putting patients’ lives at risk.

Advisors were eager to discuss strategies for guiding students towards reputable programs and avoiding companies and experiences where students are encouraged to “do too much, too soon.” Case studies were presented, based on actual incidents from the field. Some were particularly alarming: undergraduates delivering babies, students conducting hospital rounds unsupervised, even instances of students scrubbing in for surgery! Unfortunately many students are under the erroneous impression that participating in this type of hands-on clinical experience will give them a leg-up in the competitive world of medical, nursing or other health professions school admissions. Part of the messaging to pre-health professions students therefore needs to focus on how performing clinical duties beyond what they are authorized to do here in the U.S. is highly unethical, and could jeopardize their own careers.

CFHI Advising Health Students

Before the evening was over, Dr. Evert, playing the roll of the advisor, and I, playing the part of a well meaning (but naïve) pre-med student, acted out an all too common scenario for the group. Fortunately, in our fictional advising session the student wasreceptive to ideas. The advisor convinces the student to re-examine motivations for wanting to go abroad, and suggests the right questions to ask when choosing a global health education program. The role-play emphasized the many tools available for students to examine their motivations for taking part in a health experience abroad. I think advisors in attendance left the CFHIUMN Health Careers Workshop with new resources, a feeling of community, and a better sense of how to guide students to help them make better decisions for their global health education.

 

Special thanks to our guest blogger, CFHI Intern Alex Nichol, for authoring this post.

Travel vs. Transformation: Career Impacts

Travel and Cultural Intelligence

“Where are you from?” is often the hardest question for me to answer. Do I give the short answer, the long answer, or settle for “it’s complicated” like a provocative Facebook relationship status? Yet that dilemma is a small price to pay for all I’ve gained through experiences living and traveling around the world.

A study from the journal of Social Psychological & Personality Science found that those who engage in multicultural and international environments are more likely to be offered jobs. At surface value, this comes as no surprise; in any arena these days—school, job, socially, or otherwise—it is beneficial to set yourself apart, and “multicultural experiences,” are a great way to do so. But simply accumulating stamps in your passport is not enough. In an article on the study, David Livermore writes “If business travelers spend their time at international hotels and offices; and if study abroad students spend their free time on Skype and Facebook, travel may have little positive benefit for improving CQ (cultural intelligence) and career opportunities.”  Travel creates a possibility for transformation through exposure to new cultures and ways of life. But it is easy to pass up that opportunity and flock toward familiarity instead, to head to a Starbucks in a foreign country or find solace from strange surroundings amongst fellow visitors.

The Transformation: How You Engage

Transformative travel requires openness. As more and more and more people seek programmed multicultural experiences— study abroad, volunteering, or simply sightseeing—it is important to evaluate your own goals and the goals of the organization. Responsible international travel necessitates embracing the discomfort and challenges of unfamiliarity, and also willingness to let go of your own authority: to follow the leadership of the locals and see the positive aspects of a community rather than perceived negatives.  To me, the most striking overseas experiences have involved connecting with people through common humanness despite apparent differences. These experiences, not traveling itself, are transformative.CFHIMapWhite

I was drawn to work with Child Family Health International (CFHI) because their global health programs promote an immersive experience through community-based projects and perspectives. Interning here and learning about CFHI programs over the past month has made me reflect on my own international experiences. I was born in the U.S. but since age nine I have lived abroad in different countries with my family. Though I have spent much of my life overseas, some who go abroad for shorter periods of time have had more intensive and challenging cultural experiences than mine. It can be easy to entrench yourself in an expat community and become complacent about pushing beyond that.

The study suggests benefits of international travel for your career; I don’t see my experiences overseas as having made me marketable, though I can’t complain if that is a byproduct. Rather, I see travel as the defining aspect of my life that has provided more unique challenges and rewards than anything else. CFHI’s motto encourages students to “Let the world change you,” instead of trying to change the world. It has and will continue to change me throughout my life. And maybe even get me some jobs too.

 

Special thanks to our guest blogger and CFHI Summer Intern Karoline Walter for authoring this post.

Internationalizing Medical Education: Shaping Healthcare Providers for Global Health

Internationalized Medical Education: How do we develop competency-based education and realize its full potential?  UN-recognized NGO Child Family Health International (CFHI) has been running global health education programs for over 20 years.  We have seen a lot along the way since our beginnings in a small garage in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Global Health and Study Abroad See Upward Trends

CFHI Uganda Program Photo Woman

Fast forward to 2014.  Global health has become a buzzword, conjuring up images of Bill and Melinda Gates projects and Partners in Health initiatives.  Once a field that rallied for press, global health is receiving increasing limelight.  Take a look on the Kaiser Family Foundation webinar on U.S. spending towards global health initiatives or the entire Center for Global Development event devoted to discussing Best Buys in Global Health. Global health teaching in undergrad and medical curricula is also increasing and the 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, states study abroad by U.S. based students is steadily increasing and is at an all time high.   The Association of American Medical Colleges data demonstrates that 35% of US medical students participate in international experiences.  Spurred by increased participation, global health education is evolving from a phenomenon of one-off volunteer experiences to a field of educational theory and practice, shaping the world’s next generation of healthcare providers with skills demanded by an increasingly inter-connected world.

Looking at Competencies in Medical Education & How Students Engage

A study in the journal Academic Medicine shows the structure of global health programs, the degree to which they are imbedded in local health care systems, and having a capacity-building agenda, affects what students learn.  In an era where competency-based education is dominating pedagogy in medical education, we must leverage the richness of global health experiences to meet accreditation standards and competency-based outcomes.  Like studies have shown and CFHI’s 7,000 alumni can attest, global health exposure and international experiences make for better practitioners and global citizens.  CFHI’s approach leverages asset-based engagement and encourages students to “Let the World Change YOU.” stethescopeglobe

As we strive to meet demand and look at the nuances of programming, we must continue to examine students’ international experiences. This month thousands of international educators will gather at the NAFSA conference and discuss these topics at the Colloquium on Internationalizing Education for the Health Professions.  Here and on our own we must consider key questions—what competencies does a globalized health practitioner need?  What competencies are nurtured during global health programs? How do we wed international global health and what is taking place in our own back yards?  Just as important, not all global health experiences are created equal.  As educators and leaders in the field, we must advocate for socially responsible and ethically sound approaches to placing students in health settings abroad.

Truth in the Spoof: Medical Voluntourism in The Onion

Truth in the Spoof: An expose of voluntourism in The Onion.

By: Aditi Joshi, MD

Newsflash!  This week’s headlines report a new humanitarian organization ‘Doctors Without Licenses’ will start providing substandard care by putting together a group of “decertified physicians, pre-medical undergraduates, and ‘people just interested in the human body’.” The organization states it will be sending their staff to conflict zones and underserved areas to incorrectly provide medical care.

Image from The Onion satirical article

This news was reported in The Onion, a satirical weekly publication, so it is, of course, facetious. The sad truth is that it refers to a very real phenomenon.

Voluntourism and Medical Voluntourism – Repercussions

Searching ‘voluntourism’ on Google, one finds a number of hits for organizations that set up volunteer opportunities for well-meaning individuals to work in underserved communities. Medical voluntourism refers to doing medical care within these communities; these volunteers can be physicians, nurses, residents, medical students and a growing number of organizations offer hands-on opportunities for pre-medical students, as well. More and more research as well as anecdotal reports state that these short term volunteer trips do more harm than good to the local community.  (If you’re interested in a great contrast between voluntourism and global health—this article is a must read. The volunteers may be providing direct patient care, giving medications, and doing procedures. In cases where the volunteer has no formal training, and would not be allowed to do the same in their home countries, this type of care is unethical whether or not the results are disastrous.  Even for those who are trained and skilled, the lack of knowledge of local infrastructure, drug formularies, culture, language and historical frameworks can actually lead ‘good’ actions to having negative consequences.

Solutions and Social Responsibility

Proposed solutions vary as the scope of the problem is large and not fully realized. However, organizations such as Child Family Health International – CFHI, try to decrease harm by giving students the opportunity to immerse within the culture, focus on broad global health competencies, observe native health care providers who are dedicated to their communities long-term health. This prevents the student from being a short-term ‘band-aid’ health worker or trying to get patient care experience that they are not licensed to undertake. The students are able to understand health concerns in other countries while minimizing possible harmful outcomes.

Voluntourism is most likely here to stay, however the importance of finding ways to reduce harm while giving the local community the help it requires is an ongoing challenge.

 

Thanks to our guest blogger, Aditi Joshi MD, ER Physician and Former President IFMSA-USA for authoring this post.

CFHI Voices: One Northwestern Med Student’s Summer in the Himalayas

In July of this year five students from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine traveled to rural India as part of a unique global health program organized by Child Family Health International – CFHI, the second trip organized through their unique partnership.  Funded by Northwestern’s  Center for Global Health we set out to learn about public health, increase our cultural competency, and develop clinical skills by participating in a four-week clinical shadowing experience across Northwest India. We rotated in different settings, from tiny villages like Patti tucked away in the foothills of the Himalayas to the bustling city of Dehradun, in both public and private healthcare sectors.  During our time in the clinics, on the wards, and in the field we witnessed healthcare disparities as they are manifested between rural and urban regions, between private and public sectors, and between different socioeconomic groups. We were able to see, for cultural and economic reasons, how differently medicine is delivered half a world away.DSC_0918

That month spent in India was an unforgettable and magnificent experience: the medicine we witnessed, the physicians and nurses we worked with, and the patients we got to interact with brought the kind of perspective to my medical education that only an actual, immersive experience that being abroad could bring. We didn’t stay in hostels or hotels – we lived with Indian families in their homes or in dormitories within the hospitals.

Nothing can beat that kind of immersion; nothing can beat waking up in a tiny mountain village everyday at 5:30AM with my fellow travelers to do yoga, or getting woken up in the hospital by a nurse to aid in a delivery or assist in the emergency department. We explored palaces and temples, hiked through jungles, and sampled the multitude of sights and smells, the cacophony of sounds, and the delicious and exotic foods.  India brought piece and calm to my mind and body, it gave me perspective on the doctor/patient relationship, and reminded me what medicine is really about – one component of the greater endeavor to help ameliorate human suffering in the world.

India left a lasting impression – one that no doubt will shape my medical career, but also my personal life. It left me wanting to return to the more disenfranchised parts of the world to practice medicine, it left me a with a firmer perspective and appreciation of my own upbringing, and it left me with fond memories of a country I would dearly love to visit and explore again in the future.

Jason Chodakowski

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

MD Candidate – Class of 2016

How it All Began: The Early Days of CFHI

The Early Days of CFHI Featured at San Francisco Film Festivalfilmfest

This past July the documentary film “The Most Distant Places” was featured amongst others at the Bay Area Global Health Film Festival. This story, directed by Mike Seely, is depicted from the perspective of Ecuadorian doctor Dr. Edgar Rodas, then a medical school Dean in Cuenca, Ecuador. The film chronicled the importance of constructing a mobile surgical clinic and the team involved in bringing mobile care to remote communities in Ecuador.

The film festival was organized to shed light on a critical message in need of a strong voice: access to the most basic surgical care is a human right, not a luxury. Dr. Rodas shared his story and expressed an unwavering commitment to his fellow Ecuadorians. As the film came to an end and the audience allowed the weight of the story to settle, he delicately reminded everyone that every effort produces a result. These efforts would eventually result in CFHI- Child Family Health International as we know it today.

A Chance Meeting

A young Evaleen Jones, in Ecuador.

A young Evaleen Jones (right), in Ecuador.

As I sat across the table from Dr. Evaleen Jones, CFHI’s Founder and President, I marveled that even after twenty-one years, she tells the story of CFHI’s beginning with energy and excitement. She reminisced about her time in Ecuador as a third year medical student at Stanford University School of Medicine. At the time, Stanford University did not readily offer International Health opportunities abroad with a student focus. To best serve patients living in densely populated Latino communities within the Bay Area, Evaleen knew that Spanish language and cultural competencies were essential. And so, with only a modest amount of money she embarked on her first adventure abroad.

Once in Ecuador, Evaleen’s efforts to connect with local physicians led her to Dr. Edgar Rodas, the doctor who would be featured in the Distant Places film many years later.  She came to know him as a simple man who exuded a deep-seeded commitment to the well-being of his fellow countrymen.  As a surgeon he rejected the notion that a person cannot have an operation simply because they don’t have enough money. Regardless of the enormity of such an undertaking, he felt the status quo would not suffice.

As chronicled in the film, Dr. Rodas’ goal was to build a mobile surgical clinic. Evaleen, sensing the strength of his presence and understanding the value of his quest, jumped in headfirst and agreed to return to the States to arrange funding for construction of the mobile clinic.  According to Evaleen, “There are some people who you can sense very quickly are special individuals.” Even after only a week of knowing Dr. Rodas, she allowed her instincts to propel her forward.

CFHI Begins

The start of her fourth year in medical school Evaleen hit the ground running. Every conceivable connection was utilized- donations of all kinds– designing and constructing a surgical clinic, shipping the mobile unit. Evaleen’s fearlessness in asking gave her the edge that ultimately convinced others to help. Each someone told her “absolutely not Evaleen, this is impossible,” it motivated her to continue.

It was during this time that CFHI came to life. Approaching potential small-logo2_pngdonors as a recognized NGO lead to greater success. Evaleen had also not lost sight of her original intentions: CFHI was to be a platform to provide medical students (and later students of varying fields interested in health) with learning opportunities abroad, and to increase language and cultural competencies. Dr. Jones states again and again that the world is a classroom and students should pay for the privilege of learning.  Uniquely CFHI, she also saw that students could be a sustainable source of support for locally-run health care efforts that don’t breed reliance on Western ‘aid.’ While placed in the global classroom, students are encouraged to open their minds and listen well, and let the world change them. Even with the passing of time, Dr. Rodas and Dr. Evaleen Jones remain faithful to their belief that, “It has always been about the people, not the projects.”

 

–Lyndsey Brahm

Special thanks to CFHI alumna and volunteer Lyndsey Brahm for her work on this post.  Lyndsey will be attending the University of Copenhagen, School of Global Health in 2014.

Have some ideas and interested in blogging for CFHI?  Email info(at)cfhi.org for details.

Student Essays Reflect Realities and Impact of Global Health

Student Essay Contest Winners with CFHI Executive Director Jessica Evert, MD (far left)

Student Essay Contest Winners with CFHI Executive Director Jessica Evert, MD (far left)

At CUGH’s Annual Meeting last week in Washington, DC educators and students from over 60 countries met to discuss the global health landscape.  Perhaps one of the most powerful and emotional sessions was one that captured power of reflection in global Continue reading

International Women’s Day- A Story From CFHI India

alwar2Evaleen Jones, MD is the founder of Child Family Health International (CFHI) and Clinical Faculty at the Stanford University School of Medicine.  Today, on International Women’s Day we feature an experience from her recent visit to CFHI partner sites in India, and a story from a woman she met while there.  Her story  carries the message of community empowerment that CFHI embodies.

January 31.  Today we visited Continue reading

CFHI: Asset-Based Community Engagement

Child Family Health International (CFHI) at 20 years old continues to be the gold-standard in forward thinking and innovative frameworks in global health education.  CFHI provides community-basedsmall-logo2_png education alongside local professionals via clinical and public health experiences for students and those interested in learning more about medicine and health-related fields, with more than 20 programs in 6 countries.  Programs cover a variety of topics from maternal health to palliative care.

What Makes CFHI Different?

After all these years CFHI remains unique, continuing to challenge paradigms in global health and advocating for local communities. CFHI partners with communities that are considered low-resource and underserved by global financial standards.  Rather than focusing on what is lacking, however, CFHI helps to identify community strengths, ingenuity, and passion.  In close collaboration with local teams, CFHI creates programs and funds community health projects identified and carried out by local teams. This practice is based on the asset-based community development approach, formalized at Northwestern University.  The CFHI approach positions local health practitioners and patients as the ‘local experts’—presenting global health realities through authentic experiences that help shape and transform young people who are interested in global health, equity, and global citizenship.

CFHI Student with Dr. Paul, Rural Urban Himalayan Rotation

CFHI Student with Dr. Paul, Rural Urban Himalayan Rotation

Not Just Talking the Talk, But Walking the Walk

Importantly, CFHI is a staunch proponent of compensation for local community contributions and practicing financial justice.  Uniquely CFHI, 50% or more of student program fees go directly to the communities they will be visiting, benefiting the local economy at large and specifically undeserved health systems.  CFHI is an active affiliate of Consortium of Universities for Global Health, United Nations ECOSOC and has authored literature about global health educational curriculum development at undergraduate and graduate levels.   CFHI encourages students to “Let the World Change You” in preparation for being a part of socially responsible, sustainable change they wish to see in the world.

CFHI & Northwestern University Students Impact Women’s Health in Mexico

A Global Team

Global Health Initiative (GHI) at Chicago Lake Shore Medical Associates is a nonprofit organization leading through philanthropic advocacy.  Funding from GHI provided medical students at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine (FSM) the opportunity to engage in a month-long global health experience in Oaxaca, Mexico with a lasting impact.  Beginning in 2011, Continue reading

Students Asking Difficult Questions on Global Health Engagement and Development

During the Western Regional International Health Conference I had the privilege of lunching with a group of inspirational and innovative undergraduate students from the University of Washington and University of British Columbia.  At University of Washington students have created the Critical Development Forum (CDF),  a think-tank creating Continue reading

CFHI Sexual Health in Ecuador Program Highlights Constitutional Priorities

In 1998 Ecuador was the first Latin American country to name reproductive and sexual health as constitutionally guaranteed human rights.  Continue reading

Celebrating 20 Years of CFHI

Happy Birthday, Child Family Health International!

2012 marks the 20th anniversary of CFHI’ s transformative Global Health Education Programs and Community Empowerment. This milestone gives us a chance to celebrate and to look back on the impact of CFHI. Continue reading

World AIDS Day 2011

On this 30th anniversary, World AIDS Day gives us a time to pause and take in the enormity of this disease that has ravaged so much of humanity.  There will be much written today about how we are turning a corner and that the epidemic is showing signs of coming to an end.  It is important to celebrate and salute the great accomplishments in the fight against AIDS but it is also important to note that we are a long way from taking a victory lap.  We do need to build momentum in the fight, so the accolades are helpful as long as they help generate enough buzz and enough energy to follow through by implementing and building on the advancements that have been made.

Unfair

The latest numbers show that there are about 34 Million people with HIV world-wide.  At CFHI, because of our international partnerships, we are acutely aware that among all the world’s AIDS statistics it is particulary sobering to note that 60% of all cases are in Southern Africa and that South Africa has the horrible distinction of being the country with the most cases.  Also it is important to note that statistics shoe that among all Asian countries, India has the most cases.  When we look at global health disparities in general, we see how unfair the realities of burden of disease and access to healthcare are but in the context o this particular disease, it is somehow even more shocking. Try to take some time this World AIDS Day to educate yourself.  The World Health organization has a wealth of information, you can start at this link.

One of the great privileges for me as part of CFHI, is the opportunity I get to visit doctors, nursers, and other healthcare workers in the field.  As you really cannot even begin to imagine, communities where the prelevance of HIV/AIDS is very high, are impacted in a variety of ways.  On World AIDS Day, I think back on the doctors and nurses in hospitals that are inundated with patients due to the epidemic yet they still push on, they still show up even when success is not a common part of their day.   Finding local health professionals who are dedicated to their own underserved communities and trying to support them in their work is at the heart of what we do.  We see them in hospital wards that are overflowing, we see them on strenuous trips to rural areas to test, educate, and treat -thus making treatment and  healthcare accessible to  more of the population.  We see them in hospitals where the staff room has become a small ward or infection control area thus leaving them spending long hours working with no place to go for a break.  We see them in clinics working tirelessly as as line of patients stretches out the door and down the street, more than a city block.  We see them morn the loss not only of patients but of so many of their colleagues, and yet they continue.  We see them in these situations every day, and we see them more dedicated and more earnest in their efforts each day.  These are real heroes in this global fight and we salute you on this World AIDS Day and we pledge our continued efforts to help support and champion your work.

On this World AIDS day, 2011, it is particularly wonderful to note that a new film is debuting in South Africa.  Inside Story: the Science of HIV/AIDS will be premiering across South Africa.  A wonderful attempt to target the exact population that the epidemic is targeting –young people.  Using live action, computer animation and, yes, football (soccer), the goal is to educate through entertainment.  Actors from different African countries are participating in hopes that the film will gain audiences across Africa.  In addition to a love story and a sports story, the film shows through animation what is happening inside the body as HIV and AIDS run their course.  The effort deserves a two thumbs up even though we have yet to actually see the whole film.  We hope that this film can be more effective than any drug at combating the disease.

CFHI’s Model for Global Health Electives Included in Oxford University Press Publication

Oxford Handbook on Neuroethics

Oxford Handbook on Neuroethics

“Global Health Ethics is once again in the forefront of discussion with the recently published Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics chapter emphasizing the relevance of biomedical, clinical and public health ethics within the global medical and academic community.  Child Family Health International’s (CFHI) Evaleen Jones M.D., Jessica Evert M.D., Scott Loeliger M.D., and Steven Schmidbauer co-authored the chapter on the importance of establishing and sustaining an ethical framework for educational global health programs.

With growing interest in Global Health Electives among the medical and academic community, there are genuine concerns regarding equity, justice, and sustainability within underserved communities.  CFHI’s chapter discusses global citizenship via a socially responsible framework to create positive global health educational experiences for students and host communities, connecting students with local health professionals and through direct investments in local community based projects.  ”

So reads the beginning of the Press Release for CFHI issued today.  Needless to say, we are all very proud and very happy to have this recognition especially from such a noted publisher as Oxford University Press.  The portion that CFHI contributed to this chapter on Global Health Ethics is an attempt to describe our model of working in underserved communities by identifying local experts and building on the inherent strengths of the communities.  We have seen over and over again low-resource settings where amazing things are being accomplished every day in patient care due to extremely dedicated local professionals.  We see their deep commitment to serving the people and we join together with the local health professionals to design Global Heath Education Programs that are open to international students and trainees.  You can read our submission here but I want to take this opportunity to thank all our international partners who have chosen to work with us to develop this model and make it successful for the last 20 years.  No partnership is one-sided and we are deeply indebted to all the local doctors and nurses, hospital and clinic staff, local coordinators, host families, language teachers, drivers and many others who make our international programs function so well, even in some very challenging circumstances.  Our hats are off to all members of the CFHI global family –you all share in this recognition!

Read the full CFHI Press Relase and Chapter.

The Rio Political Declaration

Heads of State vow to “achieve social and health equity.”  Students respectfully ask for more specifics.

Last week, Heads of State, Ministers, government representatives, and leaders of different sectors met in Rio de Janerio at the WHO World Conference on Social Determinants WHO Logoof Health.  (Writing and discussions  about social determinants of health can often get lost in very academic and sterile sounding language, so it is important to keep it as close to real life as possible.)  What is important about the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health (WCSDH) in Rio is that 125 nations pledged their commitment to work to promote awareness, develop policies, and support programs to transform certain social factors that play a significant role in determining whether or not a person will be healthy.  The U. S. Centers for Disease Control uses the following words in an attempt to define ‘Social Determinants of Health’, “…complex, integrated, and overlapping social structures, and economic systems that are responsible for…”  As you can see, we are already getting off into language that feels far removed from the daily realities of global health disparities like lack of access to care.  Of course, all this has to do more with economics, education, and politics than with the common understanding of health and healthcare.  And that is exactly the point.  The fact that many high level political decision makers were present in Rio gives us some hope that there is a growing realization that health ministers alone cannot address these issues.

The Rio Declaration referenced a similar conference in 1978 that produced The Declaration of Alma Ata, named for the Russian city –then in the USSR, where health was defined as “…a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease of infirmity… .”  It went on to declare health as “a fundamental human right.”  So we have known for a very long time that the goal of health for a nation and for the world is larger than healthcare, at least as we know it in the United States.

More than thirty years later, it is great to see the Spirit of Alma Ata is still alive.  For, as economics, politics, and situational specifics change, it is imperative to remember that fundamental values and rights remain constant.  It was right for Alma Ata to call for essential primary healthcare for all the world’s population back in 1978, and it is right for Rio to say today that just because we have not yet achieved the promise of Alma Ata does not mean that we should stop trying.

Progress is being made, but there is much more that can be done.  That is why it is good to see the fresh eyes of students also present at the Rio conference.  The International Federation of Medical Students (IFMSA) sent a delegation of ten medical students to Rio.  Their take on the events of the WCSDH can be found on the IFMSA blog.  While the IFMSA students don’t have the experience of some of the professionals who have been working at this for several decades, they do bring a fresh perspective and the ability to think more simply, with less jaded minds.  In their critique, Renzo Guinto, the leader of the youth delegation, hits the nail on the head by saying: “The main problem of the Rio Declaration is that it failed to explicitly tell us how the unfair distribution of power, resources and wealth will be addressed, especially by Member States. The WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health has been adamant about the need to tackle this lingering issue, as health inequities within and between countries are rooted in power relations and resource maldistribution. We understand that changing the current dynamics of power will not happen overnight. However, we believe that this Declaration could have been the watershed moment for leaders to make a strong commitment in making this world a fairer place.”

Students who participate in any of Child Family Health International’s (CFHI) Global Health Immersion Programs are, in fact, immersed into underserved communities around the world.   They are mentored by local healthcare workers who face the challenges of few resources and many patients.  Students say that they are deeply impacted as they see dramatic health disparities and the realities of the social determinats  of health playing out right in front of their eyes.  They become some of the most effective advocates for global health equity because they are eye witnesses to the consequences of inequity.  And some of them are moved enough to have the experience directly impact their career plans, like Erin Newton who wrote about her experience on the Great Nonprofits Website. “Having never been exposed to the poverty, illness, and disease that I experienced in India, I learned so much about myself and found that I have a true passion for underserved and rural patient care. I learned that much of it can be prevented and I want to help treat these individuals and educate the rural communities as a future physician.”

Along with his challenges, Mr. Guinto also seems to speak for IFMSA in pledging to “…commit ourselves to continue engaging with all sectors involved in the work towards global health equity, spreading awareness of the social dimensions of health to our fellow young people, mobilizing them to take action in their respective communities and countries, doing our part, little by little, but with courage, constancy, and conviction.”  We call on all CFHI alumni, whether they be part of IFMSA, AMSA (America), AMSA (Australia), ASDA, NSNA, SNMA, as well as many other groups, or just individual health science students, to read Mr. Guinto article and find the best way to engage in the great effort to achieve heath equity both at home and abroad.

With additional specific yet respectful challenges, Mr. Guinto offers an important contribution to the dialogues around social determinants of health that may require the veterans of this work to take a step back and refocus for a fresh look at what is taken for granted, or thought to be impossible.  For it is only that kind of courage that will produce the bold steps needed to truly transform the status quo and bring about the promise of Alma Ata that is still waiting for us all.