Dr. Joyce Chen
Master of Public Health degree candidate
BS in Biological Sciences and Certificate in Children and Society Curriculum, Stanford University
MD, Duke University
United States of America
Global Health and Achieving Sustainability of Medical/Surgical Care in Developing Countries
What are your career goals?
Pediatric and Adult Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon and International Volunteer Surgeon
What sparked your interest in global health?
My year as Resurge International’s Webster fellow sparked an interest for me in global health issues. I realized that we live in a world where there is much disparity in wealth and opportunity. In my travels around the globe, I saw this disparity firsthand and its impact on society. In many developing countries, healthcare is only a luxury as the means and access of seeking care can only be obtained by those who can afford it. Humanitarian organizations such as ReSurge International, which provide free medical or surgical care to developing countries, are vital in helping those who cannot afford care. They bring plastic surgical care to places that do not have access to reconstructive or burn surgery. Nevertheless, just providing care isn’t enough as we have to help provide infrastructure so this care can become self-sustainable. Paramount in this process is education. For the countries with no medical schools and training programs, we need to help educate and train healthcare providers by sponsoring scholarships or grants. The ultimate goal is to have countries start their own residency programs for training their own plastic and reconstructive surgeons. While on their journeys towards self-sustainability of plastic surgical care, countries reach different milestones at different times. Thus at any one time, different countries have different needs. For every country, there are unique obstacles whether geographic, political, or cultural, and I am interested in trying to come up with a protocol or algorithm to aid these countries towards self-sustainability of care.
How do you see yourself making a difference in public health because of the Global Health Scholarship?
The Global Health Scholarship will allow me to pursue a MPH degree at Johns Hopkins University, where I would like to investigate and outline the steps that an underdeveloped country needs to take on its journey to healthcare self-sustainability. I would also like to identify and implement standards for medical/surgical teams who volunteer in underdeveloped countries to ensure that there is a true need for the type of care that is being given, that medical providers volunteering are actually qualified, and that adequate patient follow-up akin to western standards is in place. An MPH degree from John Hopkins University would equip me with the tools and knowledge needed to tackle both of these aspirations
Who inspires you and why?
As the Jerome P. Webster fellow for ReSurge International (formerly Interplast), I was given a unique, once in a lifetime, opportunity to spend an entire year in the field being ambassador, teacher, student, facilitator, consultant, photojournalist, and friend to many underserved people around the globe. For me this fellowship gave me the opportunity to combine some of my life’s passions…working with children, operating, and traveling. During this fellowship year, I traveled to eleven countries on five continents, and worked with hundreds of people. The Webster fellowship allowed me to witness firsthand the universality of the family core of mother, father, and child. Family members hovered nearby, readily available to comfort their loved ones after surgery. Moreover, the health care workers I interacted with were compassionate, altruistic souls, who were motivated by a common desire to help their fellow people. I was humbled and inspired working alongside them. Despite the stifling heat, my first team trip was remarkable, with extraordinary people who met one another as strangers with a common desire to help the underserved and ended the two weeks as easy confidantes. As with any memorable experience, it is the people that make it such. The patients that I’ve had the privilege to take care of are the very reason ReSurge International and other non-profit organizations exist. With the political and economical disparity in these countries, the patients that we help do not have the financial access or means to receive care for their often deforming, functional problems. A cleft lip is simply not an aesthetic problem which in itself leads to social isolation and discrimination. A cleft lip also leads to feeding and nutrition issues; having a cleft palate compounds the problem. All too often, we also see chronic burn contractures causing delibitating functional disability, where one cannot move their neck or use their fingers or hands. Our patients are very appreciative of our efforts, and many often travel by foot from afar to be treated. To see the gratitude in their eyes is tremendous and rewarding.