In 2003 I was a recent college graduate doing psychosocial support work for children with HIV. The statistics were terrible then and many children were dying. It was then that I first heard of Baylor and Texas Children’s and the work they were doing to ensure there were care providers for children bravely combating HIV. As I began medical school and learning more about pediatric global health, the name and work of Baylor, the Pediatrics AIDS Corps and the heroic doctors working in-country kept emerging. I kept hearing about how their model of care and delivery was saving a lot of lives and how results for children with HIV were improving. I came to Texas Children’s because I wanted to place my professional future in the hands of people who were able to help combat one of the great scourges of our generation and take steps forward.
The residency in Pediatrics and Global Child Health is the only residency of its kind in the United States. Residents not only complete all the requirements to be board certified in pediatrics, but also spend an additional year of training learning and serving with the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative in southern Africa. Working alongside colleagues who have spent years confronting the HIV epidemic, residents collectively serve as the primary provider of HIV treatment and care for tens of thousands of patients a year.
Most people state that pediatric residency was a great learning experience. Residents in Pediatrics and Global Child Health say that their experience was “life changing” and the “best thing they have ever done.”
Earlier this year I visited the Baylor Center of Excellence in Gabarone, Botswana. Nearly 100 patients a day and their families traveled to the capital city seeking care and the antiretroviral medications that can save lives. My fellow resident, Dr. Christopher Pretorius, spent a year in Botswana. In that time he served as attending in the clinic, taught medical students from the University of Botswana and also served more patients with pediatric HIV than anyone else in the country. He also engaged in weekly outreach clinics where he flew to rural villages to serve patients who would otherwise have no care. Furthermore, he traveled across Botswana to teach doctors and nurses about pediatric HIV.
More importantly, the impact he had on the lives of young people was visceral. Due to Christopher’s vision, Baylor Botswana created Camp Ya Chesa which is a camp for teens with HIV. He recognized that while camp opportunities were present for younger kids, it was older teens who were at greatest risk for defaulting medicines. More than one young person told me they were able to turn around their medication adherence issues because, “Chris told me I could do it.”
Christopher is incredible and he is just one of the colleagues I am privileged to work with on a daily basis. The residents in Global Child Health inspire me continuously. They collectively believe that children deserve exceptional care regardless of where they are born and then they work hard to actualize it.