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Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • Liberia's Dental Crisis: 10 dentists, 4+ million in need

    by Emily Crowe | Nov 06, 2015


    Dental_liberia_dentist
    How important is access to good dental care? In Liberia, dental care is a scarce commodity-- so scarce, in fact, that the lack of access sometimes results in deadly consequences. Matt Stiller, Director of Dental Programs at Medical Teams International, reports from the field in Liberia:

    In a country of 4 million+ with less than 10 dentists, dental treatment is simply not an option available to 99% of citizens. In three days of dental related meetings, I heard of three separate recent deaths from dental infections. Health officials recognize the need but do not have the capacity to improve conditions. MTI dental teams can save lives now- we need volunteer dental professionals to lead the charge!

    It is heartbreaking to witness the immense need for dental care in Liberia. Our hearts go out to these vulnerable families and communities-- We cannot wait to see the truly life-saving impact your support will have on these families.


    Dental_liberia_mattWant to get involved? Tell your dentist about the opportunity to volunteer locally or abroad with Medical Teams International, or sign up yourself (dental professionals/students). Donate to our international programs, Share the need on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram,

  • Ugandans Tell Cambia They Are Eager to Embrace New Technology

    by Emily Crowe | Nov 05, 2015

    This post originally appeared on Cambia Health Solution's blog, The Pulse. Cambia has been our partner for many years, providing valuable support for our mobile dental program. We are thrilled with this new opportunity: working together to design a system that will help our Uganda clinics provide better care than ever before-- potentially saving many more lives.

    Check out the most recent updates from the field, and follow #techpossible on FacebookTwitter or Instagram for updates.


    Cambia MTI Uganda 2015 008_0By Lisa Honebrink, Strategic Communications

    On day three in Uganda, the IT team foregoes the field visits to focus on the tech solution in their workroom in the hotel. An array of sticky notes fills an entire wall and columns of notes are scribbled on a large presentation pad on an easel.

    The small communications team follows the original schedule for the day and drives about an hour to the first refugee health center Medical Teams International established in southwest Uganda in 2008. Then there were only tents for a health clinic. Today, there is a health clinic, a maternity building, nutrition services, HIV clinic and outreach services with home visits to those who can’t make it into the clinic. This health center serves mainly Congolese.

    We start our tour in the maternity building.

    We walk into a room filled with two rows of four beds lined against opposite walls, with a narrow aisle in the middle. Space between each bed is sparse. At the far end of the row a pregnant woman sits at the edge of her bed. Already a mother of five, she knew it was time to come in and is waiting for labor to begin. Two other women have had their babies within the last few hours, so they lie with their swaddled newborns nestled close, being monitored before they are released. Two pregnant women have malaria and are described as “very ill, in an extremely dangerous situation for both mother and baby.”

    We are led across the narrow lobby into another room, where an HIV-infected mother is holding her baby. As this mother didn’t visit the Medical Teams clinic for pre-natal care or delivery, she was unaware she was HIV-positive throughout her pregnancy and then began breast feeding her newborn. When she finally visited the maternity clinic for follow-up care, the clinicians discovered her HIV status and tested the baby for infection. It will take two weeks to learn the result.

    We exit this building to walk the short distance across the dirt courtyard to the health clinic. There, a boy of about 10 years old with a bad cough is being seen by a doctor. We learn the boy has had to walk there on his own, as his parents are farmers and must work in the fields today. A chicken appears through one open doorway, struts between benches of refugees waiting to see the doctor, and out the other open door, back into the courtyard from where it came. None of the refugees blinks an eye.

    Medical Teams staff from the maternity building walks in to tell us the mother of five has begun labor and is in the delivery room. We are invited to stand outside the door. The woman is sitting up on the delivery table, a nurse rubbing her back. As we leave to give her privacy, we discover where the chicken went, as one of the clinicians is chasing it from this building’s lobby.

    “Cambia has come at the right time to partner with Medical Teams,” says Felix Omodi, Medical Teams Uganda director. “Having your team here is a way to expose my staff to new technology, and we are eager to grab whatever we can learn.”

    Before the maternity department existed, refugees in the settlement were delivering at home without assistance from a midwife or medical professional. Friends or family members did not understand how to assist with a normal delivery, let alone a breach baby or how to recognize when complications required immediate medical attention. As a result, too many mothers and babies died. Too many women who should have had C-sections, but endured delivery without, were horribly injured. A woman who volunteered at the health clinic in 2011 heard these horror stories and made a generous donation to Medical Teams that allowed the maternity building to be built in 2012.

    “Our maternity department is the heart of the health center,” said Racheal Kyalikoba, Medical Teams Uganda volunteer coordinator. “This is where the children of this settlement get their start. This is the future of our nation. Mothers get care here and their children get care that will help them live better lives.”

    Visit our Oct. 28 blog post, Cambia Technology Experts Travel to Uganda to Aid Health Refugee Clinics, visit our Facebook photo album for new trip photos, and stay tuned for one more blog post from Uganda.

    Photo by Mark Goodnow for Cambia

  • Reflections: Founder Ron Post on MTI's origins, filling 'empty buckets'

    by Tyler Graf | Nov 05, 2015


    In 1979, a Salem businessman named Ron Post was watching television when news coverage of the atrocities in Cambodia flickered across the screen. His heart immediately went out to the people he saw who, through no wrongdoing of their own, were facing unimaginable horrors. They needed help. And he was blessed to help them.

    He rifled through his Rolodex, made a few calls, and Northwest Medical Teams was born. Thirty-one years later, Post returned to the organization he imbued with the notion of acting faithfully and helping those in need. 

    Last week, Post spoke at the first ever Founder's Day, an event held at the Oregon Historical Society. In front of roughly 50 people, both old friends and a new generation, he told of the early days of Medical Teams International. 

    Below is an excerpt from his speech.

    Ron Post at Founder's Day
    Medical Teams International founder Ron Post speaks at Founder's Day at the Oregon Historical Society in downtown Portland. Post founded MTI (formerly Northwest Medical Teams) in 1979 after watching footage of the Cambodian genocide.

    The Bible says we spring up like a blade of grass, and that we're nice and green and flowery, and then we wither and die. Well, I'm in the withering stage, guys. And it doesn't seem like it's been that long. It goes by so fast.

    There was a clear call in 1979. Sometimes, do you feel like God is saying to you, 'I've got something for you to do'? And how many times do we shrug it off? But in '79, He really got my attention -- seeing (on TV) a young girl's body in Cambodia being picked up in a field, then looking over at my own daughter sitting on the couch and thinking, 'Why are we so blessed to be born here?'

    God gave me a plan, to raise up a medical team.

    When I saw Cambodia, I saw for the first time the least of these my brothers that the Lord spoke about. It really impacted me. I said, 'I really have to do this.'

    Then in 1985, we responded to the Mexico City earthquake. Fifty-seven hundred buildings had either collapsed or were greatly damaged. Thousands of people died. We got there on the second day. In fact, we were in the middle of the street when the second earthquake of 8.2 hit. Helping those people at that time led us to work there for 30 years.

    One highlight for me was, between Mexico City and Oaxaca, we started 21 children's Bible club programs, where children could come and have fun -- because these children lived in such poverty -- but also learn about how Jesus loves them. Two generations went through that program. I got to see some of them after they had grown, and I got to see just how well they were doing.

    That was a great experience down there. I will never forget it.

    And then there was Ethiopia, where they had that terrible famine. Hundreds of thousands of people died. It was one of the biggest tragedies of the century.

    We had our teams in two or three different camps in Ethiopia. Mainly we were working in intensive feeding centers for babies. One day I was watching them, and they would line the babies on the ground. Our nurses would go on down the line and feel between the fingers of the babies to determine the fat content. By that, they would determine who would be the 200 cases they'd admit that day.

    Our nurses would do that, and then they would go off into the corner and cry their eyes 
    out. They knew that some of the babies that were left would be dead tomorrow. 

    Woman with the black bucketAs I watched that tragedy unfold one day, I saw two ladies walking toward us. As they got close, I could see they had little black buckets in their hands. One of the women walked up next to me and within a minute started trembling and then fell on the ground. She died. We couldn't help her.

    But God had a message for me -- that I have to tell you and anyone who will listen. There was that elderly lady on the ground, laying on her side with her hand out on the ground. 
                                                                                 
    An inch from her hand was that empty bucket. God said, 'Ron, I want you to tell people, there are millions of empty buckets in this world.'

    There are millions and millions of empty buckets.

    And you're helping to fill them! And the beautiful thing is, your bucket never goes dry while theirs fill up.

    That's the message God has for all of us -- to tell that story over and over, so people remember that God wants us to fill buckets. And that's what spoke to me during that trip to Ethiopia.

  • Emotions Run High for Cambia Team in Uganda

    by Emily Crowe | Nov 04, 2015

    This post originally appeared on Cambia Health Solution's blog, The Pulse. Cambia has been our partner for many years, providing valuable support for our mobile dental program. We are thrilled with this new opportunity: working together to design a system that will help our Uganda clinics provide better care than ever before-- potentially saving many more lives.

    Check out the most recent updates from the field, and follow #techpossible on FacebookTwitter or Instagram for updates.


    Cambia MTI Uganda 2015 007

    By Lisa Honebrink, Strategic Communications

    Day two in Uganda dawns sunny, hot and humid.

    After hours of meetings each afternoon and evening, Cambia’s IT team has come to a crossroads, through healthy debate. Half the group is proposing one idea as a prototype solution, the other half another. Cambia and Medical Teams International staff quickly schedule an early morning meeting to get input from Medical Teams International's Ugandan director and program director, to ensure the perspective of the end users is what breaks the tie.

    Next the IT team sets off to the refugee settlement reception center, the gateway into the settlement for refugees who have just crossed the border. The people are still exhausted from walking long distances from other countries, some very sick, some in shock. Here their vital signs are taken, they are screened for contagious diseases and triaged for medical care. The sun is fierce today, and while the pole tent that contains the reception center provides some shade, it is still hot for the women and children waiting their turn. Some simply stare straight ahead, no expression on their faces. One newborn baby looks emaciated from malnourishment; an older woman is covered with bruises and has difficulty walking.

    Next we visit the homes of several refugees who are recent arrivals to the settlement. As we hear their heartbreaking stories of violence, struggle, loss and survival, we try to hold back emotion while in the presence of the refugees. However, tears are evident on many faces while walking back to our vehicles.

    All afternoon the IT team meets again to discuss next steps. It has been a productive day, full of work, discoveries and human emotion. The team expresses even more motivation and desire to develop the best possible solution to help the people they saw and spoke with today.

    Visit our Oct. 28 blog post, Cambia Technology Experts Travel to Uganda to Aid Health Refugee Clinics, to learn more about our trip to Uganda, visit our Facebook photo album for trip photos, and stay tuned for more blog posts from Uganda.

  • Warm Welcomes in Uganda as Cambia Prepares for 'Discovery' Phase

    by Emily Crowe | Nov 02, 2015

    This post originally appeared on Cambia Health Solution's blog, The Pulse. Cambia has been our partner for many years, providing valuable support for our mobile dental program. We are thrilled with this new opportunity: working together to design a system that will help our Uganda clinics provide better care than ever before-- potentially saving many more lives.

    Check out the most recent updates from the field, and follow #techpossible on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for updates.


    Cambia MTI Uganda 2015 003

    By Lisa Honebrink, Strategic Communications

    It’s our first day on the ground in Uganda.

    The landscape is lush, the air moist. We find the Ugandan people to be gentle and soft-spoken, ready with big smiles and warm welcomes.

    Before our first visit to the refugee settlement health clinics, in keeping with government protocol, we make “courtesy calls” to each of our hosts. Stop number one is the MTI office, where Felix Omodi, MTI Uganda Country Director, and Dr. Patrick Okello, SW Program Manager Uganda, introduce us to their full staff.

    “We are very happy you are here. We are very optimistic about your project to help ease the work we do, especially in data collection,” said Dr. Okello.

    After a one-hour drive, the next courtesy call is to the Uganda Ministry of Health office, followed by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission Refugee) office, both on the refugee settlement property. Every member of the Cambia and MTI teams is invited to introduce themselves and sign a guest registry.

    Finally, we leave the administrative area and turn into the gates of the first health clinic we’ll visit this week. We’re ready to begin seeing for ourselves MTI’s health care work here and to get the “discovery” part of this discovery mission started.

    Visit our Oct. 28 blog post to learn more about our trip to Uganda, visit our Facebook photo album for trip photos, and stay tuned for more blog posts from Uganda.