Hope heads out for another field trip!
I got caught in a wind tunnel crossing University Avenue yesterday, running back to Epic training in Colket after a mid-morning caffeine fix in Abramson. My hair and scarf whipping in a gust, leaves and construction grit swirling above the pavement, coffee cooling too quickly in my to-go cup...it seemed almost unimaginable that in 36 brisk little hours I'd be shrugging off my cardigan in balmy Santo Domingo.
But here I sit under a circling ceiling fan, mosquitoes buzzing outside the window screen! Along with my teammates, a group of eight other CHOP doctors and nurses, I'm settling into Casa Roja. This is our home for the next two weeks, in the town of Consuelo, midway along the eastern half of the Caribbean coast of the Dominican Republic. It's my second trip here with a CHOP Global Health team, and I've come back because I couldn't pass up the chance to be part of the evolving relationship between CHOP and our partners here.
When I was here in June of 2009, as a second-year resident in pediatrics, we spent just about every day riding into Consuelo's bateyes (communities clustered around the Dominican sugar cane fields, populated by migrant workers and their families) and staffing mobile pediatric clinics. The days were long and the work was intense, and I inevitably came home with my skirt smeared in a sticky mixture of albendazole and Gatorade...but the experience of working in the bateyes was unforgettable. Certainly, some of the poverty we saw was striking and the disadvantage hard to take in. In the end, though, I think I was more impressed by the fierceness with which the doctors and community leaders of Consuelo approached the task of caring for their fellow townspeople. Since then, a number of CHOP and other groups have come through Casa Roja to help support the Consuelo team in their mission. CHOP has established a Global Health Fellowship, with one fellow based full-time in Consuelo and working with our colleagues here in the Centro de Salud Divina Providencia. The batey outreach program is thriving.
Now, our focus will be different. Instead of hauling huge Tupperwares full of amoxicillin and permethrin to and from the bateyes every day, on this trip, we'll be spending more time in the barrios here in town. We've prepared talks on basic but critically important topics like handwashing, vaccine-preventable illnesses, and breastfeeding, and we'll be doing educational outreach as much as medical. I love this new emphasis, because it reflects what I think of as a central mission in pediatrics: empowering families to help their children achieve their highest potential.
There'll be a lot more to say about that later. For now, I'm loving the breeze from the fan and the sounds of salsa horns drifting in from the bar down the block. It's Saturday night in Consuelo. We're too travel-worn to do much more than blog and surf Weather.com right now (Hurricane Tomas, feel free to take a sharp right anytime!), but it's nice to know that, a few streets over, music is pouring out of a storefront bar, and a mama is standing on her porch holding her baby and dancing in place with a huge smile.
Posted at 10:54PM Oct 30, 2010
by Pamela Mazzeo MD in Health |