Interview with PRHDR volunteer, Pat Patterson, MD
Dr. Pat Patterson returned to the DR with Partners for the eighth time in January.
A pediatrician with years of experience in caring for children and in teaching pediatric care to medical students and residents, Pat exclaims, "I love the experience. The warmth of the Dominican people and the growth in the clinical skills and confidence of the students is outstanding." She was drawn to the program for a number of reasons. Pat says, "It was important to me that it not be a drop in and then leave type of a program. The emphasis on continuity and empowering the local villagers through education to better care for themselves was appealing. The combination of providing care in the international setting while educating nursing students and nurse practitioner students was also a big draw for me."
Pat has witnessed the confidence of students grow as they transform from tentative learners to talented care providers. She remarks, "They speak expertly on the subject of dental hygiene, diabetes management and wound care by the third or fourth day. It is truly a remarkable experience." With a mentor like Pat, students cannot help but flourish. She moves about the clinic floor with confidence and a smile on her face. She balances the seriousness of her work with kindness. When a student begins a first assessment of a child, Pat knows how to eliminate the intimidation factor. She is friendly, and knows how to bring warmth to the clinics. Her smile is capable of dissolving anxiety in a child and at the same time gives confidence to the mother. She is an exemplary role model. Her fellow volunteers describe her as compassionate, lovely, sincere, gracious and fun to be around.
Pat, like many of PRHDR's volunteer providers and mentors, is highly qualified and brings a wealth of knowledge to the program. She currently works for Maine Medical Center as an Attending Pediatrician and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics for Tufts University School of Medicine. She supervises students and pediatric residents in the clinic and develops the 3rd year medical student curriculum in pediatrics. She states that her experience with PRHDR has helped her in her work. She explains, "I work a lot with international patients at MMC. Working in the DR and seeing their living conditions, helps me understand where many of the patients I see at MMC came from. Basic first aid care, cleaning a cut when you have one, is often new knowledge to them but so very important." She adds, "I always return from the DR recharged about practicing medicine. Sometimes I lose sight of the joy practicing medicine brings to me in the day in day out struggles of dealing with insurance companies and pressures of paper work. In the DR, I experience, again, why I went into medicine to begin with; the sheer joy of the patient contact and the depth of gratitude the villagers extend to us for our work."
Since her initial trip in '06, Pat has shared the experience on subsequent trips with her sons Ryan and Brady, as well as her husband, Rodger. Although she has not yet convinced her son, Colin, to join the mission, his companion, Hanah Smith, joined us in January as an excellent in-take volunteer. Pat's sister, Kate Stephens, added a very professional touch and lots of warmth as a clinic in-take volunteer in January 2010.
When asked what she would say to someone who is thinking about going on the trip, Pat's bright blue eyes twinkle as she smiles and exclaims, "Don't wait; do it!"
Below, Pat shares a special moment that she will always remember about her time in the DR.
"I have many memorable moments from my trips to the DR. One in particular, however, made me acutely aware of the interwoven relationship of modern medicine, traditional medicine and religion in the DR. One night, as we were eating our evening meal, a car pulled up and young boy, of about 4, was carried from the car into the chapel. Word came that there was an acutely ill pediatric patient in the chapel and I went to attend to the boy with a pediatric resident. As we entered the chapel it became clear that the little child was seizing. Knowing we had nothing at Fusimana we asked the family to immediately transport to the hospital. The family shared that they had recently come from there. Their child had been hospitalized for some time with what sounded like meningitis or encephalitis, both serious infections of the brain. But, because he was not getting better after weeks of care, they took him out of the hospital and brought him to the village where he had received some traditional herbal treatment that failed to help him. They then brought him to us, to be seen by US doctors and, likely more importantly, to be seen and treated within the walls of the chapel. They declined to return to the hospital despite strong encouragement from the team to do just that. Several team members were shocked and distressed by the unwillingness of the family to return to the hospital. It took me a few days to understand why the family had insisted that we attend to their child in the chapel, instead of another private area. But I think the family had hoped that by enlisting the help of medical providers from the US within the home of their God, their son had the best chance of a cure: through medicine or a miracle. The family was trying everything they could to seek help for their child. In reflecting later on the event, I recall being struck by the family's calm appearance as they left the chapel with their son, unchanged. It was as if at that moment, they were at peace that they had tried all they knew to try to help their child. Wrapping their small child up in their homemade blanket and carrying him from the chapel, it occurred to me that maybe home, not the hospital, was exactly where he needed to be, cuddled between his parents."
To protect the privacy of the client and family, the name of the client, the village, and the hospital have been withheld.