by Anne Brewer, MD
This was my fourth trip with HHI, and I’m delighted to see the evolution and growth of the program. We do so much with modest resources, and it’s gratifying to see how well our patients are doing with control of their chronic illnesses. In fact, I think that as a whole, the HHI Chronic Care patients are under better control than most of the patients we see in our Family Medicine Center in Stamford, where many of our patients also contend with issues of poverty. I suspect that the Cooperadores (HHI’s Community Health Workers) are the key—when you know that your Cooperador/a will be checking your Blood Pressure or sugar and hounding you if you don’t take your meds, you’re more likely to take them regularly. And to have continuity of care and see patients for return visits and celebrate their achievements is a different experience from the medical “hit-and-run” of most international service trips. Despite the challenges of our mobile clinics, it’s a joy to practice medicine in its purest form—just us and the patients, with minimal technology intruding.
The Cooperadores are emerging as leaders in their communities and are more and more confident in their care of their patients. They can have a major impact on the health of their communities.
I have so much respect for the people in the communities that we serve.
They are resourceful and cope with challenges that would undo many of us “first-worlders.” Their generosity and support for each other are inspiring.
What makes the trip the most fun is the team that develops over the course of the week. The physicians and students all pitch in to care for our patients, and we develop a quick camaraderie that gets us through the challenges.