Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Improving Western Healthcare with Lessons Learned in the Third World

Dr. Marie Charles has announced the beginning of a series of articles on Medscape (sub. req.) that talks about the experiences of healthcare professionals who have participated in a mentoring project in third world countries. The focus of their mentoring was to help share western medical knowledge and practices regarding HIV/AIDS. In return, they learned a few things themselves.

While we suspected that our endeavors would benefit the patients in developing countries and create access to care for them, the results of our programs caught us by surprise as well. Our partners in developing countries have been very happy with our clinical mentors, and although their impact in the field has been fantastic, what we didn't anticipate is the extent to which our clinical mentors also learned from their colleagues in developing countries. Even in our resource-rich Western environments, not all patients are reached; some are left behind. Often these patients belong to minority groups, are immigrants, are poor, and have limited interaction with the healthcare system we run. As Westerners, our medical education didn't teach us how to engage the medically disenfranchised people in our own countries so that they too may have access to the care they need. While overseas, many of our clinical mentors have learned new program methods and have identified clinical care issues that could greatly help all of us reach those patients that we fail to reach now. We also have learned some novel ways to help these patients gain access to proper treatment, and we have enhanced the way in which clinical care in some resource-poor settings in the West is provided.

There are many medically disenfranchised persons in Texas. We look forward to the rest of the series--and "some novel ways to help these patients gain access to proper treatment."

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