Is a New Norm Emerging for Doctors in the United States?

The deputy medical director for Haiti at Partners in Health, Dr. Michelle Morse splits her time between research and treating patients in Boston and training physicians in Haiti. While some may consider her dedication to training foreign doctors exceptional, she argues that this level of engagement with the profession outside of the United States should become the norm. Dr. Morse completed a residency in global health equity two years ago and has since served as an attending physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. In this position, she mentors young residents and encourages them to consider work abroad as an important element of their careers.

As a director at Partners in Health, Dr. Morse strives to improve the overall quality of medical care in Haiti by developing new, rigorous residency programs for doctors in the country. In Haiti, she works at University Hospital in Mirebalais, a teaching hospital that the organization built in cooperation with the Haitian Ministry of Health following the devastating earthquake of 2010.

Dr. Morse’s push for greater international engagement represents the next evolutionary step in a shift in the medical profession that began with Dr. Paul Farmer, who co-founded Partners in Health. While in medical school, Dr. Farmer traveled frequently between Boston and Haiti to undertake work that few of his classmates understood or wanted to pursue. Today, the fact that a hospital like Brigham and Women’s offers a global health equity residency demonstrates changing attitudes, and Dr. Morse’s and Dr. Farmer’s careers provide guiding examples for U.S. physicians interested in health care in the developing world.

Health care inequalities remain a serious problem both domestically and abroad. Lack of access to quality care can result in unnecessary death. Furthermore, health care problems quickly compound in poor countries when a lack of public infrastructure and basic sanitation prevent even simple interventions. If more American doctors dedicated a small amount of time to work abroad, they could save millions of lives around the world.

Tim Broas

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