The ACR Foundation’s Goldberg-Reeder Travel Grant Program is designed to facilitate knowledge sharing while assisting patients in low- and middle-income countries. The latest group of recipients brought their skills, expertise, and energy to Uganda and Malawi, where they worked with local colleagues and patients to advance radiological care. Fresh from their travels, the recipients shared their insights and experiences with the Bulletin.
Lara L. Hewett, MD
When Lara L. Hewett, MD, a radiology resident at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), spent time at the Masindi Kitara Medical Center in Uganda, she learned a new definition of the term “on-call.” “The medical staff would literally call us in the middle of the night if they needed an ultrasound,” says Hewett.
For Hewett, her two-week trip to Uganda was just the first phase of a larger plan she had developed with several colleagues from MUSC, all of whom shared a passion for global health within the sphere of radiology. It was more than just an opportunity to gain first-hand experience in another country — her goal was to educate the local community and develop sustainable educational solutions that would reverberate long after she went home, from setting up study materials to be used long-term by medical students and residents, to developing a relationship with new staff.
Hewett’s responsibilities rotated between hands-on imaging work and archiving countless cases for future use in studying — demonstrating the very reason radiology can be so critical in care. After some administrative changes took place in the medical center, there was a risk that many case studies would be lost. Hewett made it a priority to compile old cases and file them away for study — from both Uganda and back in the United States. “So much of that information and those learning opportunities would have been lost,” says Hewett.
The culmination of Hewett’s time in Uganda was a 90-minute presentation that covered all the important cases from her trip. And because the presentation was open to all, the audience was comprised of everyone from sanitation workers to attending physicians. She had to find a way to relate all the information in a comprehensible way, so she began with what she knew everyone could relate to: the real people she and the staff cared for on a daily basis. She conducted a deep dive into patient stories and went through each case diligently, presenting her findings and making sure the audience was invested in the work. And they were — they responded so favorably to the presentation, in fact, that what started as simply a summary of her findings turned into a send-off for Hewett that she won’t soon forget. “At the end, the audience all stood and clapped, and I was crying,” says Hewett. “It seemed like I genuinely did teach some people something, and that was really great because they taught me so much.”
Kaleigh Burke, MD
According to Kaleigh Burke, MD, the weeks she spent in the pediatric ward of the Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi, provided her with a rich cultural experience she will long treasure. Burke, then a radiology resident at the University of North Carolina, recalls the unique challenge of trying to treat a pediatric patient who was sharing a bed with two other patients, and the joy of spending more time at the bedside talking to that patient’s parents in an effort to really get to know the local community, day in and day out. “We don’t usually get that level of interaction with the families here in the U.S.,” says Burke.
The intimate care she was able to provide impacted Burke greatly and gave her a sense of perspective when it came to the sheer amount of resources available stateside. As with all trips, there were trials and tribulations along the way. “A lot of the times you are propping up the machine on a pillow or a bench or anything you can find,” says Burke.
Burke’s main focus in Malawi was creating a pediatric renal US curriculum, and she worked tirelessly to educate local physicians on everything they needed to know about pediatric US across the board. During her four weeks there, Burke did everything from giving lectures to local medical students on pediatric US to providing care on-the-go. “We had a WhatsApp group and the pediatricians would text me if they had any questions or if they wanted ultrasounds,” she says. “I would pack up the portable US and go to them, which is so different than in the U.S., where patients come to us.”
Burke believes the trip had a lasting effect on the way she interacts with patients — even now as she continues her work in North Carolina. “I try to call ordering physicians on the phone more and hear from them about what is going on, and incorporate that, as opposed to relying on the chart,” says Burke. “And it’s really nice to see just how appreciative they are when you do that.”