A unique program that sends doctors from Contra Costa County to train physicians around the world is holding an event, on Monday, March 14 in Pleasant Hill, to raise money to continue its work in countries with limited medical resources.
The Contra Costa Global Health Fellowship is one of only six family medicine global health fellowships in the country, according to Dr. Neil Jayasekera, the fellowship’s founder and co-director. The fellowship, an initiative of the Contra Costa Family Medicine Residency Program that works in collaboration with UC San Francisco, was started in 2011.
Fellows train family physicians in other countries to build capacity for them to provide care in their communities. Global health fellows have trained local doctors in Kenya, South Sudan, India and Mexico. Most recently, fellows have been the African nation of Malawi to train medical students there. Malawi has one of the lowest physician-to-patient ratios in the world, as well as some of the poorest health outcomes.
“We are helping train the next generation of physicians in Africa. We’re providing the mentorship and the skills that will allow them to diagnose and treat disease, alleviate suffering, and save their patients’ lives,” said Dr. Jayasekera, who works in the emergency department at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center. “Our philosophy is teach one, help many.”
Dr. Mena Ramos, a current global health fellow, recently returned from a training expedition to Malawi. The experience was extremely rewarding, she said.
“After 3 years of residency training, the global health fellowship allowed me to share the skills I learned while at Contra Costa with providers in East Africa, and in turn, learn from their experiences providing care in a resource constrained setting,” Dr. Ramos said. “There is nothing more empowering than walking away knowing that you have shared a skill that will be useful to patients and communities beyond your own.”
Dr. Jayasekera added that the program also produces local benefits. Global health fellows are the most committed to working with the underserved and are very likely to stay here in our community and work with most underserved and vulnerable patients, Dr. Jayasekera said. For example, he noted, two recent fellows are currently the lead physicians at two prominent homeless clinics in the Bay Area.
The March 14 event is being hosted by the Contra Costa Regional Health Foundation (CCRHF), a nonprofit agency that supports Contra Costa Health Services. Global health fellows will share their stories about the places they’ve been and the people they’ve helped.
Proceeds from the event will help pay for the fellows’ travel expenses and the purchase of critical medical equipment, such as portable ultrasound devices. The Contra Costa Family Medicine Residency program is a recognized leader in point-of-care ultrasound training for family physicians.
While most people think of ultrasound in connection with prenatal care, its use has become standard in many areas of medicine. Ultrasound is especially well-suited for physicians who work in under-resourced settings locally and abroad. Global Health fellows devote a lot of time teaching doctors and medical students in other countries how to use ultrasound devices in their healthcare practices.
“Ultrasound is like radiology in your pocket,” said Dr. Erin Stratta, a current global health fellow who has worked in Peru. “It can be used every single day with just about every patient that you see. It’s the future of clinical practice and I think it is going to change the face of medicine.”
Those who are unable to attend can still donate to the cause by on the Regional Health Foundation’s website at ccrhf.org.
For more information about the Contra Costa Global Health Fellowship, visit cchealth.org/residency/ghf.
WHAT: Fundraiser for Contra Costa Global Health Fellowship. Admission is $35. There will be complimentary wine (donated by Sky Terrace Vineyards) and appetizers (provided by caterer Lovable Feast).
WHEN: 6 p.m. to 8.pm. on Monday, March 14
WHERE: Pleasant Hill Community Center, 320 Civic Drive, Pleasant Hill
WHO: Hosted by the Contra Costa Regional Health Foundation, a nonprofit that supports Contra Costa Health Services
HOW: Register for the event or donate to the cause at ccrhf.org