Dr. Theresa Strong is a Harvard University Global Health Fellow from Boston Children’s Hospital. Theresa spent six months volunteering at LFHC, from January – May 2015.
I am a Pediatrician and Global Health Fellow from Boston Children’s Hospital and have had the privilege of working at Lao Friends Hospital for Children for the last 6 months. When I first arrived in January of 2015, the building was still under construction and we only had 2 Lao doctors on staff – one an experienced pediatrician, and the other a new medical school graduate. During my first month here, we spent a lot of time in the classroom, getting to know each other and reviewing important pediatric topics. A third Lao doctor joined our staff just days before the grand opening in February.
Since opening the clinic doors in February, we have had over 4,000 patient encounters and the staff has grown to include 3 more Laotian doctors- one of whom has completed a Family Practice residency and 2 generalists. Every encounter that I’ve participated in has been a learning opportunity for me (and hopefully the Lao staff members I’m working with). Working in a team with the Lao doctors, we’ve diagnosed everything from common colds to empyema to extra-pulmonary TB to histiocytosis. They’ve taught me about Thalassemia and Nephrotic Syndrome which are more common here than in the US. Together we’ve figured out how to navigate the healthcare systems in Lao and neighboring Thailand to try to get the best care available for our patients.
Working here has been frustrating and challenging at times – I’m constantly reminded of how much I rely on labs and imaging in the US. These times are overshadowed by the eagerness of the Lao staff to learn, the way they embrace the model of compassionate care, and all of the random moments at the end of the day when they taught me Lao dancing, about Lao food, and Lao culture. LFHC has grown so much during my time here; I can’t wait to come back and see how it continues to grow. You too should think of coming!