Celebrating Doctors Like Gail!

Zack LangwayBlog, Featured, Malawi, Medicine

National Doctors’ Day is March 30th. Each year, this day gives us an opportunity to thank, celebrate, and reflect on the incredible physicians who have played a role in each of our lives. And at Seed Global Health, physicians play a huge part in our work, serving as volunteer medical educators in order to help teach and train the next generation of providers and educators.

This year, we shine the spotlight on one of our amazing OB/GYN volunteers, Gail Yanowitch. Gail served as a volunteer OB/GYN educator from 2016 to 2017 teaching and training alongside local counterparts at the University of Malawi College of Medicine in Mangochi, Malawi. After completing her service, Gail then went back to Mangochi in early 2018. In a returning role, Gail continued the work she began the year before, both training fourth-year Malawian medical students doing their family medicine rotation and participating in residents’ training to help lay the groundwork for a strong family medicine residency at COM – an innovative opportunity for an OB/GYN like Gail to share her knowledge across disciplines.

We asked Gail to reflect on her experience for National Doctors’ Day.

What moment are you most proud of as a volunteer educator?

The connections I made with colleagues. There are so many moments-when I realized that I “connected” with students and other staff, and as a result they approached patients perhaps a little differently, thinking more globally while individualizing patient care. The “aha” moment, for me, was a WhatsApp message from one of my former interns, who told me how he and a fellow intern performed a B-Lynch suture (a surgical procedure for postpartum hemorrhage) after learning about it in a surgical skills workshop we had done for the junior clinicians. His exact words: “we saved a life!”

How does your training as an OB/GYN help inform your work and your team as you’ve worked on the development of a new family medicine residency?

As an OB/GYN, I had a unique role working in the Family Medicine Department. So much of what a family medicine physician encounters in the district hospital setting in Malawi involves obstetrics and gynecology. My surgical training and experience gave me something I could share with the family medicine residents, and hopefully enhance their skills. The introduction of Malawian-trained family medicine physicians into the country is a very exciting venture and holds great promise to improve care and access to care

What did you learn or takeaway from your time at Mangochi that has stuck with you or informed your own practice upon returning to the U.S.?

It almost goes without saying that you take away more than you give. It is so humbling to be around people who work under very adverse conditions, with minimal resources, day in and day out, and provide care to a very poor and underserved population. I have learned how people can be flexible and creative to solve problems when they don’t have resources.

Why did you feel it was important to return to Mangochi to continue your work, after your year of service had ended?

It’s hard to exactly explain why I wanted to return. I guess I felt that there was more to do, and I continue to feel that way. It truly takes about 6 months of being there to have some credibility, establish some trust and learn something about the culture and environment, so as to know what you might be able to offer and share. Training the next generation, sharing skills and experience: these are building blocks of improved health, to enable future providers to serve their population.

Who’s a physician – from your childhood, as an adult, as a peer – who has inspired you?

The late Dr. Donald Benson, Anesthesiologist and Chairman of the Dept. at The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, was a mentor for me in medical school. He was a great didactic teacher, making respiratory physiology actually exciting to learn, as well as a stellar hands-on physician. He not only “talked the talk,” as they say, but also “walked the walk”. Truly inspiring.

Do you have any message to your fellow physicians as we celebrate National Doctors’ Day on March 30?

For my fellow physician: -after 30+ years in the medical profession, I still love medicine! There is so much scope, and so many opportunities in our profession. Happy National Doctors’ Day!