By Corrine Casanova
Working toward a world in which all communities have access to quality healthcare is the mission of Advocates for Rural Community Health (ARCH) which is located Reno. It’s the brainchild of Leissan Sadykova, a human rights advocate, who got her master’s degree in Diplomacy and Military Studies with an emphasis on Post-Conflict Health Sector Development from Hawaii Pacific University. Her passion brought her to a wartorn region in Uganda which has been considered post conflict since 2012. During her visit there she discovered that one of the biggest healthcare issues was human capital. She saw a need that desperately needed to be fulfilled. There aren’t enough healthcare professionals in rural areas of Uganda to see their patients, do immunization campaigns and community outreach on health education. This resonated with Sadykova and she began the work of creating the non-profit ARCH in 2016.
In conjunction with the UNR Medical School, fourth year medical students go to post conflict areas and work a four-week rotation with local physicians at rural hospitals. In April 2017, the inaugural group went to Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, a community healthcare facility that serves about 150,000 people in Uganda. There they shadowed local physicians and assisted in running the emergency room. They learned how to provide medical care despite having no electricity or running water in the facility. Banners hang throughout the hospital stating, “Give your best with what you have, all the time and in time,” which seems to encapsulate their daily philosophy. While there, they also did a community outreach program where they went to primary and secondary schools and taught them the basics and importance of hand washing. Each medical student immerses themselves in the culture by staying with a host family.
Because of the lack of resources, the biggest takeaway for the students was that the medical exam and recording a patient’s history is real. Sadykova explains, “While have become accustomed with technology, it’s great exposure to what could happen in emergency situations like after a hurricane. This program provides residents a unique training opportunity to prepare them for those types of situations because you never know what could happen.”
After the experience, one resident shared, “I am a different physician, no, a different person now than I would have been had I never set foot in Gulu Regional Hospital. I will strive to cherish relationships with others. Recollections of a smiling face, the remembrance of a pungent smell, or visions of dying patients, forever etched in my memory, will offer perspective when confronting future challenges. I will constantly seek to learn from patients, nurses, students, mentors and others around me. What I brought to Africa was not nearly as valuable as the lessons I took home.”
Other groups are set to go to Uganda in January and April 2018.
Business sponsorships are available to assist ARCH in their mission to ensure global rural communities have adequate access to health care. Sadykova noted, “This allows businesses to have a global impact. People become entrepreneurs because they see a need and then they solve it. We are doing the same thing. ARCH and our sponsors contribute to the good of the world. If rural health, global health, women’s health and immunizations are important to you, this is a great way to know your donation is making a global impact. We also make sure we thank and recognize our businesses that are philanthropists in our community. In addition to that, sponsors will have access to a global network of rural health professionals. Through our outreach efforts, we can help our business sponsors reach a wider audience.”
Sadykova sees the global impact come full circle as the medical students who become part of the program go abroad and learn skills they become better doctors, are more creative, more empathetic upon their return. She views it as an investment on a global scale. When the medical students see patients, they can incorporate what they’ve learned into their daily practice. The program helps change the way these health professionals are trained.
For Sadykova, living in Africa for six months changed her entire perspective on life. She fell in love with the people there and recognized a real gap in quality healthcare in rural areas like at the Gulu Regional Referral Hospital. She is confident the students that choose to become part of the ARCH program will be impacted by what they see and learn.