Physician Outreach Effort Established in Peru
The BWH Physicians’ Council has established the Brigham and Women’s Outreach to Chimbote program to provide busy physicians and staff the opportunity to get involved in international health in a meaningful way.
The Council’s Volunteerism Subcommittee, chaired by Edmund Cibas, MD, of Pathology, asked physicians to submit ideas for health care facilities in developing nations where they have an ongoing relationship. The subcommittee received nine outstanding proposals from physicians and chose Chimbote, Peru, because of its potential appeal to a wide variety of BWPO physicians and its relative proximity to BWH.
The goal is to have an escorted five- to seven-day visit to Chimbote twice per year. Centro de Obras Sociales and the Maternidad Hospital are jointly operated medical facilities, which consist of a maternity hospital and an outpatient medical, obstetric, pediatric and minor procedure clinic, which also includes a clinical laboratory and plain radiology.
The dedicated staff at the Centro de Obras Sociales provide high-quality, humanitarian health care, making significant improvements on the health of the people of Chimbote. Annually, the Centro de Obras Sociales sees 2,730 deliveries; 1,128 high-risk newborns; 31,277 medical office visits; and 1,985 malnutrition visits.
Staff from the Centro de Obras Sociales maintain a dedicated presence in the community, providing regular outreach and home visits for people unable to visit the clinic. Volunteer physicians participating in home visits are able to fully appreciate the lifestyle and challenges facing this impoverished community. BWH medical personnel can provide medical assistance and develop strategic plans to improve health care in their discipline.
Chimbote is 250 miles north of Lima in the desert on the Pacific Coast. It has about 600,000 inhabitants, who mostly live in thatch-wall homes with no roof. Chimbote was once the largest fishing port in the world, resulting in a large influx of Peruvians, but was devastated by a large earthquake in 1970 and climatic changes that decimated the local fish population. The result is that under and unemployment rates are about 70 percent.
Mari-Kim Bunnell, MD, regularly volunteers in Chimbote, and now, through the outreach effort, will assist the Volunteerism Subcommittee in coordinating opportunities for other physicians to do the same. “My knowledge as a physician allowed me to make a meaningful impact on lives of others, and they in turn helped transform my life,” she said.
Allen Smith, MD, MS, co-chair of the Physicians’ Council, visited the clinic in Chimbote in February. He found professional and compassionate staff working with limited resources to provide clinical care for all patients regardless of their ability to pay. “There is a ‘can do’ spirit as well as an insistence on quality protocols, that, while not sophisticated, reminds me of BWH and its commitment to stand above the rest in quality and safety,” he said.
“For those of you who can join us on a trip to Chimbote, I have no doubt it will be one of the most extraordinary experiences of your life,” he said.
For more information, attend Medical Grand Rounds on May 4, and visit www.bwhpikenotes.org/chimbote