Stories about: Global Health Program

In Myanmar, oncology expertise travels from nurse to nurse

Image of global health team with nurses in Myanmar Through the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Global Health Initiative and World Child Cancer, oncology nurse Amy Federico, RN, CPNP, had the opportunity to travel to Yangon, Myanmar, to share her oncology expertise with the staff at Yangon Children’s Hospital. Amy’s interest in global health began eight years ago, but the trip to Myanmar in October 2017 strengthened her commitment to share her knowledge across borders. Amy, who is a nurse practitioner specializing in care of patients with solid tumors at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, reflects on her experience abroad:

My interest in global health care has developed over the past eight years since I started attending the Society of International Oncology Pediatric annual conferences. So when Lisa Morrissey, MPH, MSN, RN, CPHON, asked me to join her and Kathryn Barrandon, MPH, BSN, CPN, on an educational trip to Myanmar, I enthusiastically accepted.

One of the pediatric oncologists at Yangon Children’s Hospital requested solid tumor nursing education so I knew this would be a wonderful opportunity to share my years of oncology experience, especially my expertise in caring for patients with solid tumors. The experience would also give me a better global perspective of health care delivery in another part of the world.

On October 27, we set off on our 22-hour, three-leg, 8,300-mile journey from Boston to Yangon. I realize now, more than ever, that access to health care depends upon where you are born and where you live.

The day after our arrival, Lisa, Katie and I toured the oncology ward. I was astounded by the overly crowded — yet oddly quiet — patient bays, ill-looking children and desperate-yet-hopeful parents. Occasionally, a parent or patient would poke his or her head out a door or up to a window, curious about the three of us visitors. Admittedly, I was saddened by the environment.

The next day, I was relieved when we returned and were greeted by 32 energetic and excited nurses from nine hospitals across four Myanmar states. In addition to providing oncology education, our goals were to advocate for specialty nursing practice and to provide collegial support to conference attendees. …Read More

Treating malnutrition: What I learned from working at a hospital in Haiti

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Outside Hospital Saint Nicolas in Saint Marc, Haiti

The day had finally come. Pierre was ready. With his oversized pants hoisted up by a weathered black belt and a checkered blue and orange shirt tucked underneath, the little boy exuded the air of a wizened old man ready for a long journey, not a four-year-old child getting discharged home from the hospital.

His mother had taken pains to plaster down his wisps of blondish-brown hair, a sign of his vitamin-deficient state, that had started to grow back. She’d made sure he would go home in style, with pride.

I caught mirth in Pierre’s eyes and a grin that revealed carried teeth as he waved good-bye. This young boy was a far cry from the tired, fragile little one who had been admitted to the inpatient malnutrition ward a mere three weeks prior.

During my time as a clinical fellow working in the pediatric ward at Hospital Saint Nicolas in Saint Marc, Haiti, I’ve had the opportunity to take care of infants and children who have etched indelible stories of both heartbreak and triumph in my heart and mind. However, the faces and stories from the malnutrition ward, where those children who are too sick to manage in the outpatient malnutrition program are admitted, stand out most vividly. …Read More

Sharing global pediatric oncology lessons in Armenia

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Left to right: Leslie Lehmann, MD, Irini Albanti, MPH, MA, Brian Delaney, PsyD, and Jorge Fernandez, LICSW

It’s always fascinating to visit a new country as a team and learn about how the culture, politics, economics and healthcare systems all impact pediatric oncology care.

I recently returned from a week-long trip to Yerevan, Armenia, where my colleagues and I conducted a preliminary needs assessment and explored ways to improve childhood cancer care in the country. The Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders  Center Global Health Initiative (GHI) team, including Leslie Lehmann, MD, GHI Medical/Faculty Director, Kathleen Houlahan, MSN, MHA, RN, Jorge Fernandez, LICSW, and Brian Delaney, PsyD, met with faculty and staff at the Clinic of Chemotherapy at Muratsan Hospital Complex of Yerevan State Medical University, government officials and nonprofit organizations.

Knowledge-sharing among our international partners is an essential part of our institution’s global health efforts.

Knowledge-sharing among our international partners is an essential part of our institution’s global health efforts. Collaborating with health care professionals from a wide variety of specialties and perspectives is a core part of GHI’s mission. …Read More

My critical care crusade: Why low-resource countries need more than primary care

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“I know that my child died because I am poor.”

These are words I will never forget. They were uttered by a dejected mother as she watched us, her daughter’s medical team, desperately try to resuscitate the child.

She was right.

Because she could not afford the antibiotics to treat severe pneumonia,  her daughter died when the infection overwhelmed her little body.

As a Pediatric Critical Care specialist, I am trained to help children survive their most acutely ill states. I fight death, in the literal sense. Over the last few months, while working in Rwanda and Liberia, I have all too often found myself staring helplessly at parents and family members as they watch their young children succumb to disease. Much of the western medical advances that allow us to minimize childhood mortality rates have not yet made it to these countries.

In Sub-Saharan Africa and other low resource areas, preventative strategies and primary healthcare are the focus of governments and ministries of health. The need for basic healthcare services will always be present, but tertiary healthcare systems — including critical care — are becoming more important as childhood mortality rates decline. These supplementary services must be incorporated into the fabric of existing healthcare structures.

…Read More