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Off the Beaten Track in Papua New Guinea

Expedition & Wilderness Medicine, Humanitarian & Disaster Medicine
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As the world becomes more connected and easier to access, there still remains many places “off the beaten track”.

Where communities have remained unchanged for generations and where access to healthcare is virtually non-existent. Beth works in one such place in the Sepik swamp in Papua New Guinea.

In this talk she will give a snapshot of what it is like to practice medicine in a place where patients travel up to two weeks by foot and canoe to attend the clinic, where disease is believed to be caused by sorcery, where tribal violence is a daily occurrence, and where 1 in 15 women will die from pregnancy-related causes.

Sharing stories of the challenges faced working where there is no access to diagnostics or referral, and why her focus remains on basic care rather than specialist services.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Be exposed to an example of humanitarian healthcare outside of acute disaster, emergency relief and conflict zones, and gain an appreciation of the major differences.
  • Increase awareness, context and understanding of baseline healthcare and day-to-day life in a ‘lower economically developed’ country, in this case PNG.
  • Begin to understand that you have to understand a place’s people before you can effectively practice medicine in that place. And that this takes years, if not a lifetime.
  • Gain insight into the plethora of conditions and therefore skills, knowledge and resilience one must develop to work in such a remote, poorly-resourced and culturally-different place.
  • Understand that being a healthcare professional and the value you add does not always mean we have to ‘do’, that is, prescribe, plaster, operate. It may mean listening, showing someone respect and care, or explaining and offering an answer. It may mean thinking laterally in terms of what could change someone’s situation. Understand that debunking a sourcery rumour may help someone more than a pill.
  • Invoke self-reflection and consideration of what drives you as an individual, where your boundaries may lie in terms of comfort in living, in medicine and whether there are ways in which you can directly or indirectly assist nations less fortunate, to improve healthcare sustainably.

More Information

Length: 1h 18m
Guests: Beth Lewis

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