Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 6, 2013
Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) employees are passionate about helping others around the world. Many volunteer through organized programs like Team Heart and Operation Walk Boston, while others learn about opportunities through friends, family, or colleagues at BWH. Pathology resident Dr. Brooke Howitt and Pathologists’ Assistant Lindsey Cheney exemplify our staff’s passion and dedication to global health.
Dr. Howitt learned about an opportunity to volunteer in Malawi from pathologist Dr. Danny Milner, assistant director of microbiology in the BWH Department of Pathology. When Dr. Howitt arrived at the pathology lab in Blantyre, Malawi for her seven-week stay, she found more than 100 specimens on a table waiting to be processed, and quickly set to work. While Dr. Howitt’s work was similar to what she does at BWH, the resources available were very different. Many chemicals and equipment routinely available at BWH were not available in Blantyre, which often made exact diagnoses difficult.
A continent away in northwestern Nicaragua, Lindsey Cheney also found that resources were in short supply during her volunteer work. Arriving with her sister and 20 other volunteers from across the US, Lindsey began each day at 6:30 a.m. by helping to load a school bus with supplies and riding with them to a local village. Once there, the group set up a makeshift clinic, pharmacy, and triage and waiting areas, and began seeing hundreds of patients with a variety of ailments – from allergies and diabetes to a dislocated shoulder.
Lindsey Cheney’s trip was organized by Palmetto Medical Initiative (PMI). PMI is a medical nonprofit dedicated to providing quality and sustainable health care to the people of Uganda and Nicaragua, while increasing the accessibility of global medical missions. Lindsey learned of PMI through her sister, who is training to become a physician assistant and has classmates who volunteered with the organization.
Both Dr. Howitt and Lindsey Cheney recall how gracious and thankful the people they met were. They are both eager to do similar work in the future.
In the meantime, they are thinking about how they can solve some of the problems they witnessed during their time abroad. Dr. Howitt says that formaldehyde, a preserving agent known to be cancer-causing among humans, is routinely dumped down drains because there is no way to dispose of it properly.
“I would love to fix this,” says Dr. Howitt. “I haven’t come up with a solution yet, but I will keep thinking about it until I do.”
Learn more about our commitment to Global Health:
- Strengthening Hearts in More Ways Than One
- Delivering Care to Communities in Need: Navajo Nation
- BWH Global Health Hub Blog