INTERNATIONAL CLINICAL INITIATIVES
Strengthening Human Capital
Improving the health of the world requires a health workforce that is both skilled and patient-centered. We instruct fellow physicians throughout the world in major new advances in medical and surgical care. We work closely with partner physicians to ensure they are skilled in providing high-quality, sustainable care that addresses local health problems.
Please visit our EXPLORE database for a comprehensive view of the global service projects being conducted by faculty at the David Geffen School of Medicine and UCLA Health in collaboration with international partners.
In September 2016, a UCLA surgical team completed their annual obstetric fistula repair and training camp in Uganda. The nine-member team provided surgeries for women suffering from fistula, as well as offered training to local providers and medical trainees in the techniques of fistula repair. The team, led by Dr. Christopher Tarnay, Division Chief of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery at UCLA, operates under the non-profit organization, Medicine for Humanity, or MFH. Through a partnership with Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), UCLA team members are playing a critical role in improving access to high-quality maternal health care and gynecological surgery in Uganda.
Obstetric fistula is a childbearing injury in which holes are formed between the mother’s birth canal and digestive tract, leaving the woman chronically incontinent. Fistula can occur as a result of obstructed labor, when a baby becomes trapped in the birth canal, necessitating an emergency Cesarean section. Because of limited access to health care facilities in remote areas, emergency C-sections are often unavailable, giving women no other option than to endure sometimes life-threatening labor. Prolonged obstructed labor can have severe consequences for both the mother and baby. The baby can die due to lack of oxygen and the mother can develop fistula, which often leads to chronic medical problems and social ostracism.
For the past 7 years, Dr. Tarnay has regularly been taking surgical teams to Uganda for fistula repair “camps,” two-week long concentrated collaborations between MFH and MUST to provide and improve access to fistula care. Any woman who needs fistula repair is provided the surgery, as well as all transportation, housing, food, medical support, and postoperative rehabilitative services, free of charge.
This year, the UCLA/MFH team performed 64 fistula surgeries and 20 Cesarean sections, while concurrently training local Ugandan residents in Urogynecology. By allocating a significant portion of time towards the training and education of local providers, MFH takes a sustainable approach to improving access to fistula care.
Apart from capacity building and the provision of surgical care, the work of MFH is also deeply linked to a more holistic, emotional aspect of healing. “The team is able to do so much more than just repair the physical aspects of fistula,” said Dr. Tarnay. “This operation can be life changing. Being able to witness these women leave the hospital smiling and with hope perhaps for the first time in years brings tremendous gratification.”
For more information on UCLA’s efforts with Medicine for Humanity, visit www.MedicineForHumanity.org.
By Devika Chandramohan, Volunteer
If there is one word that can describe Kara Faktor, this year’s keynote speaker at the Annual Latin American Studies Symposium at Birmingham Southern College, it is passion. She found her passion early in life, finding herself drawn towards physiology and medicine. She was able to pursue her interest in medicine during her undergraduate studies when she volunteered overseas with her friends through Global Brigades. Global Brigades is an international non-profit organization that pairs university student volunteers with teams of professionals in underprivileged and under-resourced countries to develop better standards of living. The projects are multifaceted, with teams working on dentistry, micro-finance, water, human rights, and more. Kara worked with the medicine brigade; having found it a rewarding experience, she decided to start a chapter at her own college, Brandeis University, and served as the chapter president until she graduated.
In 2014, she was selected as a Fulbright Scholar, which provided her with a grant to conduct a personally designed project abroad. She focused her work in Honduras through Global Brigades, with the aim of analyzing the effects of programs and organizations like Global Brigades, which bring foreign health professionals into developing nations, on these host countries. She interviewed around 100 nurses and physicians in Honduras and surveyed them on their experiences with Global Brigades and other non-profit organizations. While the assistance was greatly appreciated by the local professionals, she found several areas for improvement. Many of the local team members found that some American doctors were not prepared well enough to work in the conditions they faced in Honduras. Coming from a country with plentiful resources like the United States, they were not capable of conducting their medical practices in less conventional settings, such as school buildings without proper equipment and resources.
Kara also discovered the importance of understanding the patients’ stories, backgrounds, and cultural relevance. Some patients could only seek medical care twice a year due to limited access. They would request medicine even when they had no symptoms due to the fear of getting sick with no medicine or medical care facilities available. Though not a native speaker, Kara majored in Spanish, along with neuroscience and biology, and translated for doctors. Through her work as a translator, she observed first-hand the difference made when doctors simply attempted to speak Spanish and connect with the patients on a more personal level. It established a higher degree of trust and emphasized the humanistic element of medicine.
During her time in Honduras, Kara met Charlotte Ford, a professor at Birmingham Southern College and a fellow Fulbright Scholar. Impressed by her work, Dr. Ford told her colleague Barbara Domcekova, a Spanish professor who heads the symposium, about the young woman. Kara was invited to be the keynote speaker at the 24th Annual Symposium in April 2016. In her talk titled “Foreign Medical Aid from an In-Country Perspective: Beneficial or Detrimental?”, she spoke about her research and findings from her Fulbright studies. The experience was invaluable and gave her a platform to spread awareness about the work she had been conducting in the previous year.
Now, Kara is a second-year medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is continuing to commit her time to work overseas. This past summer, she just traveled to Maputo, Mozambique with a group of health professionals for the Short-Term Training Program in Global Health Research and studied steroid resistance in pediatric nephrotic syndrome. Her advice for aspiring medical students is “find your passion. Everyone in my classes now all have different activities they were involved in, and everyone is passionate about something.”
For Kara, her passion is deeply rooted in working with the underserved populations of our international community and using medicine as a means by which to give back to society, an honorable passion and one in which she has proven to be fully dedicated. We wish her all the best with her future as a physician and global health practitioner.
[Reposted from University of California News]
UCLA Center for World Health Founding Director Thomas Coates has been named director of the University of California Global Health Institute.
Coates succeeds the institute’s founding director, Dr. Haile Debas of UC San Francisco, who will become director emeritus after playing a pivotal role in launching the systemwide institute in 2009 and guiding its growth.
Coates, who previously served as the institute’s co-director, will be responsible for providing executive strategic, operational and resource management leadership for the institute.
In addition, Dr. Craig Cohen, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCSF, and Dr. Patricia Conrad, professor and associate dean for global programs at the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, will serve as the institute’s co-directors. Cohen previously served as co-director of the institute’s Center of Expertise on Women’s Health and Empowerment and Conrad served as co-director of the Center of Expertise on One Health. In their new role, they will work closely with the director to manage the institute’s operations.
The institute, which works to train the next generation of global health leaders and accelerate the discovery and implementation of transformative global health solutions, also named six new board members:
- Dr. Timothy Brewer, professor of medicine and vice provost of interdisciplinary and cross-campus affairs, UCLA;
- Nancy Burke, associate professor of public health, UC Merced;
- Matthew Guthaus, associate professor of computer engineering, UC Santa Cruz;
- Juliet McMullin, associate professor of anthropology, UC Riverside;
- Brad Pollock, professor and chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences, UC Davis; and
- Steffanie Strathdee, associate dean of global health sciences and Harold Simon Professor and chief of the Division of Global Public Health, UC San Diego.
The board, which is responsible for providing guidance to the institute in overall policy and direction in meeting organizational goals, is chaired by Mary Croughan, executive director of the Research Grants Program Office at the UC Office of the President.