The WEEKLY’s Wendy Lu spoke with Dr. Meredith Miller, an Internal Medicine and Pediatrics resident at UNC School of Medicine. Miller is the first recipient of the Dr. Charles A. Sanders/Project HOPE International Residency Scholarship, and will work with Project HOPE’s maternal and child health clinic in the Dominican Republic in March.
How did you become interested in the Dr. Charles A. Sanders/Project HOPE International Residency Scholarship?
I’d already planned to spend another one to two months of residency doing clinical work abroad. I knew it would be a great opportunity to gain more insight and experience working to meet medical needs in a resource-limited setting. I hope to utilize this experience and knowledge in the future both locally and abroad to help meet the health needs of underserved populations.
What are you most looking forward to about working in the Dominican Republic?
I’m looking forward to working with Project HOPE, which is an amazing organization that’s making a difference all over the world. The organization works with the Navy to bring medical care to different coasts in Africa. They do a great job of working with local organizations to create sustainable projects and clinics that can run when they leave the country without needing constant help from the international world. So that's something I'm very interested to learn from that experience. Certainly I always love interacting with people, with patients, the mothers and children that I will be helping, and learning from them and their experiences.
What other experiences have you had doing medical humanitarian work abroad?
Last year, I spent some time in Costa Rica, but I was not as much on the front lines as I will be in the Dominican Republic, where I'll be doing more clinical work. I spent most of my time there learning medical Spanish, but also enjoyed the opportunity to observe and assist at a local clinic and hospital. Just prior to medical school, I spent a few weeks in Central African Republic, where I did some volunteering through an NGO at an orphan care center and at a maternity clinic. I had an opportunity to meet with the physician involved with the local medical school and observe HIV educational sessions in outlying villages.
What are the greatest health care risks and needs of mothers and children in developing countries, and how can they be addressed?
Certainly there's a much higher infant mortality rate as well as maternal morbidity and mortality with pregnancy and delivery in the first couple of years of the child's life in developing countries. Getting access to prenatal care, ultrasounds, and testing is difficult. Monitoring children's growth and development and intervening at an appropriate time to get them on the right track. Getting important vaccinations when there are such barriers to care.
I think the Project Hope model is an excellent example of how we can create sustainable interventions to address these needs in developing countries. Project HOPE works with local organizations that can organize volunteers and mobilize staff to create sustainable clinics to meet those needs. It's not just about having a facility that you prop down somewhere and hope people come. You really do have to have an outreach and have the ability to go out into the community, to bring services to people who can't get to the facilities.
How did you first get involved with maternity and pediatric care?
I started out as a business major in college and then switched to psychology. After college, I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for a while, and found that I just wasn't satisfied. I did HIV testing for a year but I was behind the scenes. I was doing physical property testing on drugs. I was learning as much as I could and became very proficient on the job, and then I'd get bored. I’d been volunteering at some local clinics and ultimately realized that I could find satisfaction in a career in medicine. I will always be learning and will always be directly interacting with and working to improve the health and quality of life of my patients. TW