National Doctors’ Day 2017

CommunicationsBlog, Featured, Liberia, Medicine

As we celebrate National Doctors’ Day today, we reflect on the life-saving work of physicians across the country, and celebrate the substantial contributions of our Volunteer physicians who treat patients, train educators, and save lives.

We are proud of our Seed Global Health staff physicians and the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) Volunteers includes extremely dedicated physicians whose commitment to caring for patients extends beyond the hospital. By working to help educate the next generation of doctors in low-resource settings, they are helping to guarantee that more patients have access to qualified and trained clinicians.

We spoke with two of the doctors who inspire us and live out this commitment to a healthier future: Dr. Sad Sayeed, Chief Medical Officer at Seed Global Health, and Dr. Corinne Maund, a GHSP Physician Educator in Liberia.

Dr. Sad Sayeed

Dr. Sayeed, far right, with the 2015-2016 GHSP Physician Educators

Dr. Sayeed is our Chief Medical Officer, leading all of our medical specialties and the volunteer physicians who serve through our programs in 5 countries. An Assistant Professor of Global Health, Social Medicine and Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, he also serves as Director of the Program in Newborn Health and Social Change and is a staff neonatologist at Children’s Hospital Boston.

What sparked your own passion for medicine and your work at Seed?

From very early on, on some deep, subconscious level, the fundamental idea of caring for others, regardless of station or position, was firmly cemented in me. My father ran a hospital and clinic that provided care for severely disabled children for more than thirty years and watching him treat some of the most vulnerable in our society with such love and compassion taught me a lot about what ought to matter in my life. My mom was an educator, and I am sure her love of teaching also sparked the same in me. In some way, my work with Seed is an extension of those basic moral commitments – sharing the gifts and graces I have received to others in some meaningful manner.

What do you find most inspiring about working at Seed?

I find the simple human connections that are made between our Volunteers and their patients, students, and new colleagues the most inspiring. In global health, we all like to dwell at least a little on the notion that big, transformational ideas alone will truly change the world for those who need it most. But truthfully, it’s just not as simple as any one person or even a movement of tens of thousands delivering change through just willpower and a good idea. Delivering high quality, sufficiently resourced health care in places that are vastly economically disadvantaged is a messy, complex, generational set of problems. Seed doesn’t have the “cure” for that, nor do we pretend to. What we do and do well is to enable good people who are professionals with an abundance of skill and ability, helping them share all of that with people who are keen to learn and benefit from such mentorship. Every story I hear that retells a moment when a student felt inspired and empowered to become a compassionate and dedicated care provider by the encouragement of one of our Volunteers inspires me.

What do you think is most critical in strengthening the global healthcare workforce?

Genuine, deep human connection – the opportunity for students and learners to be inspired and imagine what is not only possible, but what is right. Our volunteers are uniquely positioned to do this – they are not just dropping off medicines or supplies, or flying in and out for a week’s worth of care provision, they are not just creating a curriculum in Boston and leaving it to locals to implement, they are not just advising policy makers at a distance from the reality of what is happening in the hospitals. They are reminders that proper health care delivery requires committed, compassionate people every minute of every day. It is something we simply take for granted in the U.S.

What is the value for U.S. clinicians spending time practicing medicine in resource-limited settings?

More than anything, at least for me, it teaches humility, gratitude, and patience – all things that undoubtedly make for a better clinician back in this country. It also teaches me that little things mean a lot. Small efforts can do an incredible amount of good, in ways we might hardly imagine at the time we are doing them.

Dr. Corinne Maund

Dr. Maund, fourth from the right, with patients at the Fistula Center.

Dr. Corinne (Cori) Maund is currently serving as a GHSP Physician Educator in Liberia. She attended medical school in underserved Philadelphia and earned her MD from Temple University. She went on to graduate from a four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology at George Washington University in Washington, DC. She has volunteered abroad from Guatemala to Zambia and has served low-income populations in the U.S. She will be extending her service as a GHSP Physician Educator, teaching in Liberia for a second year.

What sparked your own passion for medicine and your desire to be a GHSP Physician Educator?  

From a very young age, I was passionate about the human body, medicine, global health and specifically Africa. My parents even saved an elementary school essay where I chronicled how I would become a doctor so I can come to Africa and “help” children! This passion grew and developed into a deeper understanding of the inequalities of our world, specifically in women’s health. Where you are born should not dictate if you and your baby live or die during childbirth. I have been on several overseas medical trips, and have, realized quality medical education is a pillar for success in global health. When I learned about GHSP, I was thrilled to find a program that values education and strives for sustainability. Partnering with our Liberian colleagues, we are training the next generation of doctors, midwives, and nurses who will serve the Liberian people and train future health care professionals.

What do you find most inspiring about working in Liberia?

Change is possible. When I first arrived in Liberia and began working alongside the doctors and nurses in the hospital, I observed how little clinicians would speak to or examine patients. I soon learned that a number of factors, including cultural recognitions of hierarchy within the hospital, meant that little value was placed on what we in the U.S. would call “compassionate care”.

So, I decided to help be that change in my hospital. I focused on modeling compassionate care to the residents and hospital staff. I spent time discussing with patients their care plan, searching the internet for information on how to treat complicated cases in limited resource settings, and encouraging the staff to do the same. At first, few seemed interested.

But then, three patients returned to the hospital, and in their treatment, something wonderful happened. The residents took complete responsibility and control in care of these patients. They took the time to coordinate their care, discussed proper hygiene with the patients, and made sure the patients got their antibiotics on time. Slowly but surely, they started discussing plans of care with patients and researching what could be going on with their patients. I’ve never been prouder of them.

With all of us GHSP Volunteers, other volunteers from around world, and our Liberian colleagues working together to strengthen care and patient outcomes, we will make the system better. We must continue to encourage those around us to push further and work harder because the women of Liberia deserve better.

What do you think is the most important approach to increasing and improving the global healthcare workforce?

It’s simple: Education. Education. Education.

What is the value for U.S. clinicians of spending time practicing medicine in resource-limited settings?

Working in a low-resource setting has taught me many valuable lessons and skills. The art of history-taking and physical exam skills are sometimes missed during training in the U.S. as we can rely so heavily on diagnostic tests, but in lower-resource settings they are often all you have.

For example, estimating location, size and number of fibroids has become an acquired skill from physical exam and abdominal ultrasound. You use your training and skill to “figure it out.” Don’t have the recommended antibiotics? Ask the pharmacy what’s in stock and go back to that microbiology class in medical school to figure out what drugs will cover the bugs you are trying to cover. Don’t have packing? Tie many, many four by four gauzes together. Don’t have the suture you’re used to? Review the properties of the sutures and decide which one will work the best. Working here has made me a better clinician.

In addition, you learn to truly appreciate childbirth, both the dangers and the triumphs. Childbirth can be a life-threatening event in a woman’s life which is sometimes overlooked in the U.S. After experiencing loss, you gain a great appreciation for life. You realize the importance of what you’re doing and appreciate the need for greater training of all health care facility staff, everywhere.