A World of Hope

The Global Health Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia aims to provide services and clinical care in the most underserved areas of the world. Hear from the team behind the center about how they're helping advance children's healthcare by providing expertise, training, education.


A World of Hope

Narrator: It's rush hour on a Tuesday morning in November, and staff from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia are headed to work. Transportation is the back of a pickup truck. The route is a dirt road bordered by sugar cane. And the medical facility where this group of highly trained doctors, nurses, and therapists will see patients is a one-room school building. It is a world away from the high-tech hallways of Children's Hospital, but for hundreds of children in the Dominican Republic, the presence of this team opens up a world of hope.

Rodney Finalle, MD: The reality is that every day 30,000 children die. They die from things that, with the right intervention, are preventable-- malnutrition, diarrhea, dehydration, pneumonia, malaria. Clearly, if you opened up The New York Times today and read the headline that 30,000 children died yesterday in the United States, there would be some cry of outrage.

Global health is what I like to call an emerging field of healthcare.

Steven Altschuler, MD: It's really an effort to provide service and clinical care in the most underserved areas of the world.

Rodney Finalle, MD: Our role is not to go in and become the provider for those children, but rather to help advance children's health by being a support, by being a catalyst, by providing expertise, training, education.

Narrator: The CHOP team can't be there to provide direct care all year round. That's why strong partnerships are so important.

Steven Altschuler, MD: The partnerships touch many aspects of life within the host country.

Rodney Finalle, MD: The major partner in the Dominican Republic is called the Centro de Salud Divina Providencia, which is a small community clinic staffed by Dominican doctors and nurses. It's supported through the Grey Nuns of Canada who've been in the Dominican Republic for 50 plus years.

Sister Lenore Cabb: As people who are dedicated to the care of the people here, we can do just so much, but you bring another experience and another whole set of skills that we don't have.

Debra Voulalas, MD: The focus has been how can we work with our Dominican partners so they can develop programs and teach other medical professionals.

Rodney Finalle, MD: So one of the models that works very well is to utilize healthcare extenders.

Karen Anderson, MSN: Each bateye has a health promoter working in the bateye. And they have been identified as people who have more knowledge or more leadership, and they help maintain the health recommendations that we make.

Francisca Vasquez Santana, MD: [Speaking a foreign language]

Translator for Francisca Vasquez Santana, MD: We are working toward a better quality of life. We are working toward better nutrition for the kids. We are working to explain to the people — mothers, fathers, the community of the bateyes — that the better their education, the better quality of life they'll have.

Steven Altschuler, MD: Part of the program is to train individuals who could help a local population develop better medical care, better nursing care, improve the lives of children.

Narrator : Children's Hospital is training a new generation of leaders in the rapidly growing field of global health.

Steven Altschuler, MD: We've developed this very innovative global health fellowship--

Rodney Finalle, MD: --to find future leaders in global health--

Lara Antkowiak, MD: --to kind of live within a community, be a part of that community and then work with the existing health system to try to improve pediatric healthcare.

Karen Anderson, MSN: Lara walks into the barrio and children surround her.

Debra Voulalas, MD: She will develop a tremendous knowledge base.

Karen Anderson, MSN: She has formed such relationships that our recommendations have a much better chance of continuing because she's here.

Steven Altschuler, MD: We're the only institution that offers a fellowship in global health, so we're fortunate to have a donor, David Pincus, who has dedicated most of his life to serving these vulnerable populations.

Rodney Finalle, MD: To support the poorest communities, you need some supportive dollars, and that's where philanthropy is key and incredibly important. We couldn't do it without donors large and small.

Steven Altschuler, MD: A lot of people have difficulty getting their hands around the magnitude of the global health issue.

Rodney Finalle, MD: As the world's leader, we need to think about the world's children.

Steven Altschuler, MD: That translates to providing the utmost in community benefit with the community being the world.

Narrator: Whether a child comes from halfway around the world to CHOP or CHOP goes halfway around the world to a child, the commitment is the same.

Steven Altschuler, MD: There has always been this concept that we have to serve all children. Instituting global health really becomes an extension of that mission.

Karen Anderson, MSN: We can't stay in West Philadelphia. We have to bring that excellence because we have that excellence.

Narrator: While the CHOP team is working to change children's healthcare, the experience also changes them.

Rodney Finalle, MD: The passion on the part of the people who do this is clearly evident.

Karen Anderson, MSN: It's rare that you get to move into a culture and to experience that culture.

Debra Voulalas, MD: To improve the lives and relieve suffering of the children here and to train people who will go out and do more of this work is the biggest reward for me.

Rodney Finalle, MD: There's quite a sense of pride on the part of the institution to be able to really have global health as part of the work that we do.

Steven Altschuler, MD: This is an opportunity for individuals that are highly motivated, that are great physicians, great nurses, to practice medicine in an entirely different way and to be exposed to medical problems that they would probably never see here.

Rodney Finalle, MD: Not only is there a driving force of professionals and personnel who want to do it, but there's a huge need.

Sister Lenore Cabb: When people from CHOP come, and experience life in bateyes, they change.

Lara Antkowiak, MD: It really changes the way you think about the patient population that you have, when you see not only a snapshot in the clinic, but you see where they're living.

Debra Voulalas, MD: In our Primary Care Center in Philadelphia we have families from Asia, the Caribbean--

Rodney Finalle, MD: --from South America, from Central America, from East Africa--

Debra Voulalas, MD: Many who don't speak English and have different cultural backgrounds.

Rodney Finalle, MD: And so the things that we learn working cross-culturally really in another setting like that are hugely valuable to those of us who practice here in Philadelphia.

Francisca Vasquez Santana, MD: [Speaking foreign language]

Translator for Francisca Vasquez Santana, MD: It's been of great happiness and satisfaction to reach those kids who have never had the opportunity to consult a pediatrician.

Rodney Finalle, MD: At the heart of it all, the children are lovely, engaging, entertaining, hardy, strong-willed, everything that I would use to describe the children in West Philadelphia.

Sister Lenore Cabb: In spite of the fact that they don't have a lot, they have an interior happiness.

Lara Antkowiak, MD: And you see them playing with some discarded toy or sticks or a ball made out of something.

Karen Anderson, MSN: But the poverty takes something from them. And I think CHOP is giving them some hope that their lives are getting better.

Rodney Finalle, MD: We've already seen from the work, from our staff, from our fellows, from our trainees that we can really not only make a difference, but we can learn and we can share that knowledge.

Lara Antkowiak, MD: It's not just this little program in this little town in this region of the world; that's where it begins. But the hope is that if we do it right and we listen, we can make a difference far beyond this island and this community.

Related Centers and Programs: Global Health Center