By Kara Kinsley, physician assistant pediatric surgical fellow
On the northeast side of the Republic of the Congo, there is a small town on the Oubangi River called Impfondo. This town is home to an estimated 20,000 people who are living in extreme poverty. In addition to the desolate conditions, many citizens are burdened with diseases including, but not limited to, malaria, HIV/AIDS, parasitic infections and tuberculosis. Furthermore, many of these affected individuals are children. As a physician assistant (PA) student, I had the opportunity to travel to a hospital in Impfondo with the World Medical Mission. During my time there, I was exposed to incredibly sick patients, mostly children, and tried to help as many of the children succumbed to severe illness. I watched and participated in medicine that was limited not only by a lack of providers, but also a tremendous deficit of resources and specialty knowledge.
I chose to participate in the pediatric surgery fellowship at Texas Children’s Hospital because of my experience in Impfondo. I began to prioritize learning the details of pediatric care in order to create a foundation to pursue global health in the future.
A portion of the fellowship here at Texas Children’s is dedicated to research. Each of the fellows is given a month to contribute to a fellowship research project. This year we chose to do a topic aimed at understanding the potential impact PAs may provide to the global health field. To conduct the project we will be surveying more than 700 organizations that send medical professionals to areas of need around the world in hopes of understanding what kind of impact PAs can have on the advancement of global health. We do know PAs have already become a working solution for the areas of the U.S., as well as other countries, in closing health care disparities.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 25 percent of countries in the world are at a critical shortage of health care workers. In order to decrease these disparities, the WHO estimates over 4 million additional health care providers are needed. (O’brian, 2011; Scheffler, Liu, Kinfu, & Dal Poz, 2008). Through our research we hope to uncover knowledge about the impact PAs can have in these countries and begin to explore solutions for closing the global health disparity gap.
To learn more about the pediatric surgery fellowship at Texas Children’s, please click here.