By Steve Wehn, vice president, government and community relations
May 8, 2013 - One of the great things about working at AMN Healthcare is that our company not only cares about the world in which we live, but takes strategic action to make it a better place. Like healthcare itself, AMN’s commitment to social responsibility translates into positive, measurable outcomes for people who need help.
AMN clinical team – FRONT: Stephan Petranker, MD; Debra Duhart, CRNA; Sherry Chisholm, MD; Ginny McKeon, CRNA. BACK: Sarita Satpathy, MD; Babak Rashidi, MD; Richard Gilliam, RN; Monica Rogers, RN; Zonna Rogers, RN; Tracy Stillwater, RN.
That philosophy-in-action recently took us to the highlands of Guatemala, where AMN sponsored a team of physicians and nurses plus community service volunteers on a project organized by HELPS International, based in Dallas, Texas, to help improve the health of indigenous people. We worked near the town of San Cristobal Verapaz, a place of coffee fields, green mountains, the native Pokomchi culture and relentless hardships.
When we arrived at the rural hospital, hundreds of men, women and children were waiting at the gate, and they broke into spontaneous applause and cheers when the clinicians stepped off the bus. The clinicians immediately began walking through the crowd, triaging people who needed immediate help and scheduling those whose conditions could wait until later. Then the medical team, totaling 30 people, got to work at the clinic and operating room, staffing round-the-clock shifts.
When the team arrived, a crowd of men, women and children were waiting for treatment, some as long as two days.
In six days, the team conducted 97 surgeries for conditions ranging from broken bones and eye disease to hernias and tumors; they also completed 546 clinic visits and nearly 100 dental treatments.
I took part in another kind of health service as a member of the “stove team.” Many homes in this part of Guatemala, and in similar impoverished rural areas around the world, use wood cooking fires that have no ventilation, creating dangerous conditions due to indoor smoke. This smoke causes many of the eye and respiratory diseases treated by our team of clinicians.
The community development team installed 20 safe stoves in homes.
Together, the stove team installed 20 safely-ventilating stoves, which are proven to dramatically reduce poisonous indoor smoke; they also use 80% less wood, saving valuable resources. HELPS International has installed thousands of safe stoves in Guatemala. In addition to safe stoves, community development teams installed water purifiers in homes, to help prevent the widespread gastrointestinal illnesses that afflict adults and children due to impure water.
As VP for community relations at a company with a true social conscience, I’ve done quite a bit of volunteer work. But this was a life-changing experience for me. So many people in this area of Guatemala live in extreme poverty, and their poverty is directly related to their health problems, which is true the world over.
AMN is very fortunate to have built a large network of talented clinicians and physicians from San Diego, Dallas and the rest of the country, many of whom were anxious to join this humanitarian effort. I felt honored and privileged to sponsor and travel with these professionals. We played an integral role in a project that healed sick people, who otherwise would not have received treatment, while creating tangible change that will prevent disease in others. Objectives achieved.
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