Medical Education in Guyana-IOP article Grace White

Whoever coined the maxim, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime,” only got it half right.

Teaching someone to fish is all very well if your goal is to feed one person. But what if your ambition is larger than that? What if your goal is to feed a village? Or a country?

You cannot succeed by teaching one person at a time. Instead, you must teach fishing to one person who teaches fishing to many others. Solving a critical global issue requires multiplication, not addition. That’s why the International Outreach Program of St. Joseph’s Health System trains doctors, who train doctors.

Most non-governmental organizations that deliver medical training to students from developing countries only offer observerships. Yes, trainees are allowed into patient wards and operating rooms—but only to observe.

They are not allowed to examine patients, see patients independently, answer patient questions, prescribe medications or perform procedures. They are given zero responsibility. All they do is watch.

The International Outreach Program, on the other hand, arranges full licensing and medical insurance for medical students and physicians from developing countries. Through our partnership with McMaster University, our trainees talk with their patients, prescribe medications, perform surgeries, deliver babies, set broken bones, and plenty more, just as Canadian residents and clinical fellows do. This unique approach sets us apart, and, from what our medical graduates tell us, is the foundation of our success—and theirs.

Training nurses and other vital healthcare workers

In countries where medical resources are in short supply, healthcare can’t be delivered by one person, not even a well-trained doctor. Every doctor is part of a team. That’s why we train other members of the team.

First among these vital workers are nurses. We train nurses to deliver safe, effective, evidence-based patient care. We tailor our curriculum, whether it’s in emergency room nursing, infectious diseases, obstetrics, surgery or another discipline, to the nursing methods most relevant to local needs.

Two other areas where our training is in great demand are pharmacy and biomedical engineering. We teach hospital pharmacists how to work closely with medical and nursing staff to ensure that patients receive the right medicine, at the proper dosage, administered in the most appropriate way.

We teach biomedical engineers how to maintain, service and repair the medical equipment (whether modern or outdated) that their hospitals use to diagnose, monitor and treat patients. When possible, and only if requested, we donate this equipment.

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