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Medical Volunteerism
Sarah Rich, 6 Jun 06

Goma%20child%20in%20chair.JPG The International Pediatric Outreach Project(IPOP) is a young organization based in San Francisco. Founding pediatricians Theodore Ruel and Sadath Sayeed were looking for a way to fill the gaps around healthcare outreach in developing countries that currently comes from large NGOs and government health organizations. In smaller, more remote communities of places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and rural southern India, IPOP provides health education and prevention information, improved technological infrastructure, and direct patient care when possible.

In India, IPOP collaborates with the Swami Vivekanada Youth Movement Hospital...[to] deliver cost-effective and high quality inpatient, outpatient, and community-based pediatric services. In addition, IPOP is recruiting US pediatricians who have either completed post-graduate training or are senior residents to spend a minimum of month-long visits to the site, in order to assist with both service provision for patients and educational programs for the local providers.

IPOP also arranges exchanges to bring healthcare personnel to the U.S. for training and education, including connecting a doctor from the DRC with a fellowship for advanced HIV training at the University of California, San Francisco.

Another (in some ways similar) new program is Health Care Volunteer, which connects volunteers -- with whatever level of medical training -- with opportunities to serve in the United States and many other countries. Their site is still a bit rough, but it shows some promise.

Why profile these two? What does medical volunteerism mean? Beyond the basics (that billions lack full access to proper health care, or, often, any health care at all, and that anything we can do to help mitigate that situation is worldchanging in its own right), these sorts of efforts also point to the increasing ability of people in all walks of life to self-organize to make a difference. Whether we're talking about engineers, birders or coders, people are more able than ever before to make a real difference in their spare time, using the skills they've gathered in their day-to-day lives. As this trend continues, it may bode very well indeed.

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