Thursday, November 29, 2012

Suturing and Infectious Diseases

Last night I played softball with the rest of my team, the Endorphinatics.  I was talking to the Physician Assistant in between innings about his time volunteering in Costa Rica.  His advice was to learn to suture, and know my infectious diseases and the antibiotics that treat them.  

Great advice.  My dad is going to teach me how to suture in a couple weeks when I am back in California working at his clinic.  After working at a psychiatric research clinic, I realize things can get ugly if you live in a group home or partially on the streets.  On occasion, we have patients who need stitches removed or who have cuts that need attention.  Might as well knock one skill that I will be learning in PA school down!

The second piece of advice will be a little more difficult to follow through with.  First of all, even if I knew exactly which infection or disease merited which antibiotic, who's to say that drug will even be available?  Thinking about how I would bring extensive amounts of medications into Ukraine reminded me of this smuggling story from My Trans-Siberian Journey - As I was going to St. Ives.  Something tells me that flashing a big American smile and being waved right past customs won't work this time.

My arsenal of medical skills:

  • Vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature) 
  • Ear examination using an otoscope (compliments of my dad)
  • Blood glucose test 
  • Blood test (if a suitable lab is found)
  • General health education

Does anyone else have any advice on medical skills I should start working on?  I am excited to get to work!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Я еду домой! : I am going home!

Well, not quite.  Actually I am home...right now.  Over the years I have come to call many places my home - Los Angeles, Berkeley, San Francisco, Austin, etc.  One of those many places is Odessa, Ukraine.

I am excited to announce that this summer I am returning home to Odessa to volunteer at the wonderful Ukrainian nonprofit known as The Way Home.  For those of you who read My Trans-Siberian Journey, I appreciate your loyalty in continuing to follow me, regardless of where I go and what I am doing!  You might remember stories about my time in Odessa in 2010.  Volunteering at The Way Home helped me realize how rewarding international volunteer work is.  I admit that I am no Mother Teresa, but I have always known I want to help people in some way, shape or form.  Yesterday, I took one step closer to making my dream of being a professional international volunteer a reality.

The Plan:
This summer, I am going back to The Way Home in Odessa, Ukraine to volunteer.  This time, when I show up and they ask me, "What do you want to do?" I won't stare back at them dumbfounded by the question.  I know what I want to do - I want to start a medical outreach program that serves the vulnerable populations found in Odessa.  I will be in Odessa for 4 weeks volunteering at a clinic that currently works with The Way Home.  While I am there, I will get a better idea how I can organize a volunteer based program that helps The Way Home treat the street kids, drug users and homeless who reside in Odessa.  

The Preparations:
In preparation for this trip, I am brushing up on my Russian language skills.  I have also picked up a Pocket Medical Russian book to help me learn vital phrases.  
I am looking into potential medical distributers that will donate supplies that I can take with me or have shipped.  I am learning more medical skills from my role model, my MD dad.  I will also be seeking help from people who have set up similar aid programs or have volunteered for an international medical program.  I need to look into the rules and regulations regarding shipping medical supplies, and regarding practicing medicine without a Ukrainian license in the event that my dad wants to come help me get this project started.

The Future:
If this summer goes the way I hope it will, I will start the paperwork to make this program a 501c3 nonprofit organization.  I will start writing grant proposals and look for a team that is passionate about my vision.  I will fundraise and start planning for the following summer - look for more suplies, volunteers and funding.  Hopefully I can use my future Physician Assistant (PA)  program to help me recruit enthusiastic PA students to go abroad and deliver medical care.  Lastly, I will come up with a good name for this organization!  

Links to previous blog - My Trans-Siberian Journey:
My Kids
Through your Eyes
Social Patrol