BL: Doctors Without Borders’ greatest strength is that they are able to deploy very large and efficient resources in a very short time. When the cholera epidemic came to Haiti, two days later they’re on the ground with cholera treatments and tents and camps all set up, but doing essentially ongoing primary care is much more unusual. A lot of what we do is geared toward trying to reduce the burden on the local health service, not just treating disease and the illnesses of our patients. We have data for about 40,000 patients in our database. We’re able to target the microclimates of health, and better yet, we’re then able to say this is an intervention that would work in this context of this health landscape.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 36 – No 09 – September 2017
KK: How many clinicians, physicians, nurses, physician assistants, etc. are actually working with you?
BL: Last year, we had something like 550 or 600 volunteers pass through from nine countries. People from 16 different countries have come to work with us.
KK: If ACEP members or others want to get involved, how would they do it?
BL: On our website’s volunteer page [FloatingDoctors.com], there’s some info about volunteering and also the application. They can email us and contact us if they have questions before they choose to apply. I would say another thing that really sets us apart is that one of my volunteers a couple of years ago said, “You know, [for other organizations] it’s much harder to volunteer than you would think. There’s a minimum requirement of two years, or it costs $2,000 for 10 days of a boondoggle where you do half a day of clinical work or you get there and the standard of care is poor.” How difficult volunteering for some organizations may be hadn’t really occurred to me, and one of the things that’s hard for US doctors is getting even one week off. We accept volunteers for shorter amounts of time. It’s a little bit different for ER doctors because ER doctors can actually take more than one week off.
KK: Are there suggestions that you offer to defray some of the costs so it’s not an obstacle or barrier to participating?
BL: For our volunteer fees? I guess if people can come longer. From our point of view, it’s much more desirable if people can come longer, and we do the weekly volunteer contribution, which we really use to run our entire program. That rate drops for each week that people can stay longer.