Working on the ground in a global health field position is a special chance to observe the collisions of world views, and Georgetown, Guyana is one of the most spectacular melting pots to do so. I am fortunate to work with resident physicians, nurses and students who are supremely passionate about providing the best emergency care for everyone who comes through our doors. We have great and powerful motivations from our faiths, families, friends and life stories. But as is always the case, an army of do-gooders cannot meet the needs of a whole population. How do we move from the cottage industry of global health into a world of systemic change?
Global health itself is worth every penny in global peacemaking. If we could tweet out the cross-cultural bridges built during every patient-provider interaction in hospitals like ours, we would dwarf the Olympics in size. Recent articles have described how global health should be situated prominently in the foreign policy plans of governments. The far more difficult and important challenge is to discover how global health efforts can change the hearts and minds of more people and become bridges of peace every day.
My last night in Guyana arrived sooner than expected. I worked my last shift and then went out to dinner with the A&E residents. It has been an incredible and rewarding experience spending a month in Guyana teaching emergency medicine and learning about the healthcare system in a developing country. I have told the emergency medicine residents and doctors here that their job is much harder than mine - and that they are doing incredible work. The local doctors are learning not only how to practice medicine, but also how to advocate for continued change and improvement in the healthcare system. I only hope that I have made an impact here by sharing my training and experience.
This week there have been two holidays to celebrate, giving me a few days off work and the chance to experience some of the local culture. The first holiday was the Hindu holiday of Phagwah, which is observed in March and celebrates the triumph of good over evil as well as the arrival of spring. The celebration involves music, dancing, and lots of color! Each person wears white, and then colored chalk is used to make each person into a canvas.
About a week later I was walking down the road after my shift when I heard “doctor, doctor!” I looked over to see this infant’s Aunt, she had pulled over to the side of the road while driving by. She was eager to tell me that he had undergone corrective surgery, had a diaphragm repair with mesh, and that he seemed to be recovering well.
Practicing medicine in a hospital with limited personnel and resources requires additional thought and focus to provide optimal care to patients. The local health care providers have a harder job than I do back in the States. On my second day in the hospital, the nursing staff went on strike because they were not receiving enough support from the hospital and nursing administration.
The emergency medicine residents and graduates have been eager to help me get oriented, to discuss interesting cases, and hear about the differences in practice between Guyana and the United States. Now, after few days of on the job experience, I am much more comfortable in this environment and excited for the weeks ahead of me, to provide both patient care and teaching to the local doctors.
During my brief time at Kijabe Hospital, I was able to meet and interact with multiple people from different backgrounds, nationalities and professions that had all assembled at this particular hospital to serve the mission of the hospital and care for the patients. Though these encounters are often brief, there is a deeper sense of community and common bond in these relationships that is different from common work relationships or friendships.
Medicine often is focused on achieving a “cure” or a better outcome for a disease process. The opportunity to take care of this woman who was left alone by her husband, with her children who were about to be orphans, impressed upon me the need and importance of being able to practice true religion.
In the US, general surgery residents do not get exposed to a lot of urologic surgery since this consists of a separate residency training program. However, in Africa, most general surgeons still perform a lot of urologic surgery. I enjoyed learning a new subset of skills and operations. Overall it was a productive week of learning and delivery of medical care.

Subscribe to our newsletter to recieve the latest updates.