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  • Cambia technology experts travel to Uganda to aid refugee health clinics

    by Emily Crowe | Oct 30, 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. 


    Cambia has partnered with MTI for years, providing support for their mobile dental vans in Oregon and Washington.  Expanding on this partnership, Cambia’s CEO Mark Ganz and MTI’s CEO Jeff Pinneo saw an opportunity to do something more significant.

    Uganda-childrenAs a health solutions company with a footprint that is increasingly expanding, we consistently seek innovative partners and initiatives to drive impactful change through our health care system. Sometimes those partnerships take an unexpected – and imaginative turn. One that gives us the opportunity to reimagine possibilities on a more global scale, to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone to provide better health for some of the world’s most vulnerable.

    Almost daily we are struck by images and stories that showcase the increasing refugee crisis. The pictures of people lost, of children separated from their parents and of the makeshift shelters spreading as far as the eye can see. The grief stricken expressions on their faces are seared in our minds.

    Uganda is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world, and has received a flood of nearly 500,000 refugees fleeing from bordering war-torn countries. The majority of refugees are women and children in dire need of medical attention.

    Medical Teams International (MTI), a humanitarian organization also based in Portland Ore., provides 24/7 health care to these refugees as well as Ugandan nationals, a total of nearly one million people. MTI’s clinicians treat acute and critical pediatric and medical illnesses, perform minor surgery, conduct obstetrical assessments, provide HIV testing/counseling and give much needed immunizations.

    Uganda-medicine-for-childrenIt currently takes up to a month to manually collect, enter and transmit critical data from MTI’s health clinics to the United Nations (UN). This delay severely limits coordination of patient care and the UN’s ability to transmit alerts about contagious disease outbreaks. To improve this process, Cambia is sending the first ever IT team with MTI to a Ugandan refugee settlement to develop a pilot technology solution. In this one settlement alone that’s refuge to 75,000 people, MTI oversees eight clinics that treat more than 8,000 patients a month. Once an IT solution is developed, the goal is to expand its use to humanitarian-aid clinics worldwide.

    Cambia has partnered with MTI for years, providing support for their mobile dental vans in Oregon and Washington. Expanding on this partnership, Cambia’s CEO Mark Ganz and MTI’s CEO Jeff Pinneo saw an opportunity to do something more significant. Leveraging our resources and innovative expertise to develop this technical solution will hopefully not only benefit Uganda, but also other countries and humanitarian organizations.  

    Cambia-team2
    Ready to make a difference: The Cambia team on their way to Uganda. 

    Cambia leadership and the IT participants see us getting as much out of this effort as we’re giving. This trip will help inform our own thinking about what we can do here in Portland and in local communities, to ensure the best possible care is delivered to those who need it most – down the street or across the globe.

    Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation comes at the intersection of technology and humanity.” This effort represents that combination, providing the right technology to innovate a solution for the good of humanity. It’s also about coming together for a greater cause, because it’s simply the right thing to do.

  • Reflections: Earthquakes & Refugees in rural Afghanistan, 2000

    by Emily Crowe | Oct 26, 2015

    Dr. Henry, a pediatrician, began serving with Medical Teams International during the Kosovo War in 1999. Since then, he's served on four continents and impacted many lives. His upcoming book, Seasons and Sojourners, shares his insights and experiences. We're honored to share his experiences here-- volunteers like Henry make such an incredible impact on vulnerable lives around the world.

    The following story describes his time serving with Medical Teams International near the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan in the early 2000's, after an 8.5 earthquake and the Taliban wreaked deadly havoc on local communities. Read the entire post here.


    We pass a small caravan of cows, donkeys, and camels, herded along by boys who would be in primary school in other parts of the world. Abdul, our driver, remarks camels always appear to be smiling. He adds, Muslim legend has it the camel smiles because he knows the one hundredth name of God. 

    Camels-Henry-Reitzug-Afghanistan

    I ask him, "What is the one hundredth name of God?"

    “We don’t know,” he answers. “Camels don’t talk.” Intriguing, but logical.

    Without missing a beat, Dag offers,

    “We know the one hundredth name of God. It is Father.”

    Abdul ponders that for a while, keeping further thoughts close to his vest. Intermittently he will engage with us about our faith. He has no problem with the God of Abraham; Jesus represents the continental divide for him, as he does for most Muslims.

    Our destination, the village of Ghrange, is spectacularly set at the base of snow-capped mountains. It is also spectacularly poor. An 8.5 magnitude earthquake two years earlier rattled flimsy homes, fissured fields, and claimed countless lives. Clothing, shoes, and grain are in critically short supply. Three years of drought have not helped.

    Henry-Reitzug-Afghanistan-Blog

    In a hut with a panoramic view of the village, we negotiate with the mayor and the elders of Ghrange about upcoming distributions of shoes and warm clothing. It is vital no one is left out, or afflicted with shoes too small. Frustrations don’t play well in this country. Neither do negotiations when freebies are involved. The sun is already dipping behind the mountains when we finally finish. Keep Reading >>

  • Delivering a safe bed for Hawa's babies

    by Emily Crowe | Oct 12, 2015

    Hawa is no stranger to giving birth on hard, dirty floors in her village in Liberia.

    When the contractions began with her last child, Hawa had been afraid. Giving birth was hard… But, giving birth without a clean, safe bed was even harder.

    Four times, Hawa has suffered through the contractions, pain and fear of giving birth on nothing but hard ground. Not only was each birth excruciating, but the hard ground hurt her joints. Sometimes, the pain lasted for weeks afterwards and was so intense that she was couldn’t move—a devastating situation for a mother with a newborn.

    Hawa and twins, birthing bed
    Hawa with her newborn twins-- safe and sound, thanks to the birthing bed delivered to her clinic.

    Without a clean environment, her newborn child was at great risk for infection-- as was she. In addition to the crippling pain and danger, it was just humiliating.

    She hated that her baby’s first breath of air was taken from a cold, dirty spot on the floor. “It is shameful and disgraceful to tell your friends that you gave birth on a dirty floor as a woman,” Hawa said. “And there’s too much suffering; because your foot can become tired quickly, and it can even cause the baby to die if you are not strong.”


    "Who knows, maybe I would have died in childbirth this time if the bed was not here by God’s grace..."


    Hawa desperately wished for something better. But, every pregnancy she received the same response: this resource was simply not available. 

    Then, something incredible happened.

    This time, when her contractions began, Hawa was anxious—but not afraid.

    This time, when the contractions began, she rushed to the clinic—and was immediately taken to the birthing bed your donations had just delivered.

    Not only did Hawa use the bed to give birth to one child… but two. She had twins! Without a clean, safe place to give birth, this time would have been even more dangerous.

    Hawa is so grateful for your support.

    “This time I can share the proud story of my childbearing experience, especially with this great blessing of giving birth to twins at the clinic,” she said. “Who knows, maybe I would have died in childbirth this time if the bed was not here by God’s grace, because two children at the same time is not easy.”


    Help more women like Hawa receive the care they need: Share her story on Facebook or Twitter & sign up to receive email updates from MTI. Pray that more women will have access to the care they need, especially when they need it most. Donate now and provide life-changing care and services to vulnerable mothers & children around the world.

  • One Filling at a Time

    by Emily Crowe | Oct 09, 2015


    This article, featuring MTI's Mobile Dental program, was originally written by Meghan Taylor and appeared in the September 2015 issue of the Willamette Dental Group's Tooth Talk. Republished with permission.


    by Meghan Taylor

    A hospital emergency room is an all too familiar sight for the Americans who don’t have dental insurance, or have dental care readily available. Even though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has reduced the number of people without medical insurance, the ACA does not require people to have dental coverage which still leaves millions without the means to take care of their oral health. For those with Medicare, dental services are not covered, making it difficult for the elderly to take care of their mouths. According to the American Dental Association, this gap in coverage costs the United States health system two billion dollars a year in preventable dental care. This makes organizations like Medical Teams International (MTI) and their many volunteers vital in providing free or inexpensive treatment to those otherwise unable to receive dental care.


    Gosner-wagner-young-mobile-dental

    With so many desperate for treatment, the need for qualified clinicians willing to volunteer their time is even greater. MTI has eleven mobile dental clinics that travel throughout Oregon and Washington caring for patients. The clinics are in such high demand that they are regularly booked out several months. In order to care for these patients, they rely on dentists, hygienists and assistants with hearts for those in need. One such person is Dr. Charles Wagner.

    Two years ago while taking some continuing education at a dental conference in Portland, Wagner saw the MTI van. “I was curious and took the tour of the dental van. After the tour they gave me one of their hats. I kind of want- ed to get involved and the hat sealed the deal.” After signing on to help, he then asked his hygienist Theresa Young and assistant Lisa Gonser to join him on the days he volunteers. “I like doing it with one of our own dental hygienists and assistants as we work well together as a team.”

    For the trio, the day is shorter than a typical work day with Willamette Dental Group (WDG), and is filled entirely with fillings and extractions but Wagner has noticed one difference between his patients at WDG and MTI. “The patients are mostly elderly who do not have dental insurance and do not qualify for OHP. They are the working poor.” MTI-dental-van

    As a hygienist, the day is a bit different for Young. “He does emergency treatment only. I help by taking radiographs and situating patients; sometimes by giving anes- thetic for the doctor.” Gonser’s outlook on the day is different from her colleague’s. “It is just like any day at WDG. The people that you are helping don’t look any different than our patients. [We] are providing the same dental care but only in a small space.” The MTI dental van has two operatories in it with all the supplies necessary for treatment, creating tight spaces for the team to work, but the benefits far outweigh any inconvenience.

    “The most rewarding aspect is that all of the patients are very grateful and don’t hesitate to express that gratitude for the service that you provide for them. When it is all done I feel good knowing I and my team have provided at least one small measure of service for our seniors that sometimes fall between the cracks when it comes to dental care.” Wagner also shows his appreciation for his team by taking them out to lunch afterwards, usually at Red Lobster, as a small token of the gratitude he has for them.

    The gratitude their patients express for seemingly normal procedures has proven to be a challenge for Young in an unusual way. “I see the people in need and wish I could do more for them.”

    For Gonser, the difference between a day at WDG and working on the MTI dental van is in the details. “I really think the difference is how grateful the people are that don’t have the means to get dental or even medical attention. These are people that don’t have anything let alone insurance money or even a warm place to live. These people are grateful for the help.”

    In the end, the team helps people who would have had no other way to be cared for. MTI has facilitated their giving hearts, and something as simple as a single hat started a snow ball effect that has changed the lives of many.



    Do you work in the dental field? Want to volunteer with our Mobile Dental program? Learn more about how you can make an impact!

  • From the field: Need, change in rural Cambodia

    by Tyler Graf | Oct 06, 2015

    Tyler Graf coordinates stories, photos and information about Medical Teams International's development work. In July, he traveled to Cambodia to document the ongoing work there. The following is a first-hand account.



    At a little past noon on a hot and muggy July day, our SUV slowed as a small crowd crossed the road we were traveling down and gathered near a slim concrete sidewalk on the left-hand side.

    It was hard to tell what exactly was going on, as our line of sight was obscured by the growing congregation of spectators. Clearly, something had drawn their collective attention. In a slow procession, they convened on the scene.

    As we neared, at the slow roll of the typical rubbernecker, the gruesome sight came into focus. Two bodies – one slumped, the other sprawled – lay on the side of the two-lane road. A crumpled motorbike rested beside them.

    Cambodia crash victim
    (Photo by Sean Sheridan)
    In Cambodia, the high number of traffic accidents coupled with inadequate ambulance service yield deadly results. Sothay, above, was in a motorbike accident but had the good fortune of being picked up by an MTI-trained EMT. 

    With nothing more to go on, it was immediately evident what had happened – more or less: The two men were riding a motorcycle when it slammed into a truck. On impact, they flew off onto the side of the road, where they now lay. They were motionless.

    There was a strange and sad symmetry to this happening on our route, at a time when we were driving by. We were returning from a morning training session of Cambodian medical professionals. The topic was emergency medical services, commonly referred to as EMS.

    While we tend to take for granted that we, as Americans, can dial 911 when an accident occurs and that an ambulance of trained paramedics will arrive, that’s simply not the case in Cambodia. The country has a very high incidence of traffic accidents, and deaths.

    The scene before us drew that fact sharply into focus. The two men lay there as the crowd looked on. There was no ambulance in sight, not that one would have helped much. In Cambodia, ambulances typically act as little more than taxi services for the critically injured. They can transport someone from point A to point B. What they don’t do is provide much in the way of medical care between the two points.

    Our SUV contained one American EMT along with two medically trained Cambodians, so we stopped the vehicle to assess the scene. It was evident from the outset: there was nothing we could do.

    The men were dead.

    One likely bled out from his injuries. If medical professionals had arrived earlier, they might have been able to stanch the bleeding. The other man looked like he’d died on impact.

    The stark scenario is illustrative of Cambodia’s need for better-trained emergency medical professionals capable of responding to emergencies when they happen. According to a 2013 World Health Organization estimate, more than 2,400 people a year die in traffic accidents on Cambodian roads. The numbers will only increase as Cambodia develops better roads that can transport more people.

    That needs to change. And it will, because of your donations, support and prayers.

    That support provides training for first responders on how to assess victims of traffic accidents and then quickly transport them to medical facilities. Many treatable emergency conditions are neither recognized nor addressed at Cambodian hospitals as a result of the current lack of training.

    The doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers who are trained take to the new knowledge like fish to water. For them, it’s a revelation. They learn how to assess a patient’s condition, conduct triage, and open blocked airways, along with other essential medical techniques. Once they’ve mastered the techniques, they train others. It's working.

    That was evident one night near the Thai border, when a young man named Sothay slammed into the side of a car while riding his motorbike to a friend's house. As he lay bleeding on the ground, unconscious to the world, someone called the local ambulance. As it turned out, the ambulance driver had undergone training and knew how to properly respond.

    The ambulance driver found Sothay, assessed his injuries, dressed them as best he could, and then transported him to the local hospital, where he stayed with the young man. With few health workers left at the hospital at night, the ambulance driver tended to Sothay himself.

    Another doctor I talked to raved about what he’d learned, saying it transformed how he treated emergency patients, and not just accident victims. His name is Dr. Chea, and he practices medicine in rural Cambodia, near the Thai border. 

    He recalled when a mother brought him a 25-day-old baby boy suffering from bronchitis.

    By the time the baby had reached him, the baby’s body was blue and he was having trouble breathing. The baby’s mother was completely beside herself, convinced that her baby was dying. She was distraught and crying, Dr. Chea said.

    He assessed the baby’s condition and then delicately opened the airway to directly supply oxygen through gentle CPR. Soon, the baby started breathing on his own. Dr. Chea attributed his ability to bring the baby back from the brink to the training he received.

    “It is very important to know this topic – how to open an airway,” Dr. Chea said. “I’m very excited that MTI is providing this training.”

    Still, there’s more work to be done, as evidenced by the two men left dying by the side of the road. That’s not to discount the amazing work that has taken place, and the amazing work that’s still to come. It’s just to say that progress takes time.

    After all, Cambodia is a country in the midst of growing pains. How easy it is to forget that only 35 years ago the Khmer Rouge was in power. The despotic regime led by Pol Pot murdered the country’s intellectuals and forced others to the countryside to live a purely agrarian existence, resulting in millions of deaths. It wasn’t until 1998 that the last remnants of the Khmer Rouge were defeated entirely.

    Your support ensures that rebuilding efforts continue. Cambodia has taken huge strides to develop into a modern country despite horrific setbacks. The country deserves to be a place where medical professionals save sick babies, and where emergency care is an expectation.