In the developing world, people often do not have the ability to obtain medical care. Though the problem is complex, high health care costs in hospitals and an inability to treat fundamental health problems in rural areas are two of the major factors creating this disparity. Excessive health care costs, compared to local incomes, prevent to many citizens of such areas from being able to see a physician or obtain medical supplies. These high health care costs in hospitals are partly due to the scarcity of sterile and usable hospital supplies such as surgical and diagnostic equipment. As a result, even basic problems such as malnutrition, poor hygiene, and parasitic worms from poor drinking water are not treated and develop into serious health conditions.
Basic health care materials such as bandages, vitamins, anti-parasite medication, and personal protection for providers can make a huge impact in the rural areas of these developing countries . More complex tools like surgical and diagnostic equipment can have an equally important impact on the quality of health care available to citizens of developing countries by improving the ability of hospitals to meet the needs of their people. While these countries face a scarcity of resources, U.S. hospitals often have an overabundance of supplies. Our health care institutions often dispose of supplies because they have expired, but they also throw supplies away because the packages were opened or simply because the hospital stopped using that particular brand of supplies and switched to another. Consequently, millions of pounds of supplies are wasted every year ? supplies that developing countries can easily utilize.
Global Medical Initiative (GMI) was established on the Case Western Reserve University campus in the spring of 2004 to help address these international health care issues. GMI is an Undergraduate Student Government (USG) recognized student organization that has five main goals:
GMI collaborates with a Cleveland-based organization called MedWish International, which collects useable medical supplies that local hospitals, such as the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and MetroHealth, would otherwise throw away. GMI students organize and package medical supplies from MedWish to obtain the supplies for their shipments. To organize the logistics of shipping the supplies, GMI coordinates with the Case Tuberculosis Research Unit at the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and the Mulago Hospital. Throughout the year, GMI holds fundraisers to raise money for the shipment to the clinic. One of the goals of GMI is to provide regular shipments of supplies to the clinic in order to sustain aid to this community.
2. Educating and motivating students who may one day become leaders in public health
The summer of 2006, a team of students from GMI traveled to British Guyana, and in 2007 to Nicaragua, on a medical service trip with a program called International Service Learning for two weeks. GMI graciously received funding from the Office of the Provost to help pay for their trip. In Guyana students volunteered in local hospitals and smaller clinics in New Amsterdam and Skeldon. They also traveled to Orealla, a smaller village in which they set up a clinic for the locals. For the trip, each student brought a suitcase of medical supplies to donate to the local hospital. GMI also helped start the House Assessment Program in Orealla to help locate homes that needed special attention from physicians. The information was reported back to the director of the hospital in New Amsterdam. In Nicaragua, on top of the House Assessment Program, students worked for two weeks in various local clinics both in the capital city Managua and a volcanic island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe. Working in teams of three, students handled taking patient histories and proposed diagnoses and treatment regimens to the team physician who confirmed for final diagnosis and prescription of medications.
3.Raising money for disaster and epidemic relief efforts
Case for UNICEF Tsunami Relief and South Asian Relief Drives
The organization has led multiple disaster relief efforts on campus, including the Case for UNICEF ? Tsunami Relief Drive that featured a collaboration effort of over 30 student organizations and raised over $8000 for victims of the December 26th tsunamis in southeast Asia. Our efforts on behalf of Case for UNICEF were highlighted at the annual Share the Vision reception, as one of the four featured student initiatives on campus. After the earthquakes in South Asia, GMI reestablished Case for UNICEF to collect donations from student organizations. By collaborating with communities in Cleveland Heights and Case through a "Guest Griller" event at the Mongolian BBQ on Coventry, GMI was able to raise money to relieve the suffering of the earthquake victims.
Case Hurricane Relief Fund
Case Measles Initiative Drive
4. Advocating global public health issues on campus
Tsunami Relief Benefit Dinner- During the Case for UNICEF Tsunami Relief Drive, GMI hosted a benefit dinner that featured a panel of speakers from the medical school, law school, and MSASS program. Each speaker addressed different global health issues brought to light by the tsunami tragedy, such as health policies in the developing world, the importance of disaster relief, and the sex trade of children.
Doctors without Borders Benefit Dinner- At the Doctors Without Borders (DWB) Benefit Dinner our guest speaker, Dr. Robert Levin from Doctors DWB, who had worked in Uganda, gave attendees a first-hand glimpse at the Ugandan health care situation. He also told students how they could someday get involved with Doctors Without Borders themselves.
Healing the US Healthcare System Dinner- The Healing the US Healthcare System Dinner featured a panel that included a bioethicist, health economist, and president of the Summa hospital system. Panelists were presented with questions on salient issues in global health, such as what lessons can the US system adopt from foreign healthcare systems, from both GMI members and the general audience. All proceeds were directed to the next shipment of medical supplies.
International Health Lecture Series - GMI hosted a mini health lecture series featuring our different advisors who discussed their current work as related to international health.
Observer Columns - GMI occasionally writes a column in the Observer to discuss current international health issues.