The idea with this project was to look objectively and conduct a medical assessment on how Expert-Exchange alongside other Doctors and professionals could help with Cambodia’s medical system and infrastructure. Expert-Exchange and Dr Messer from One Good Turn completed a brief medical assessment over an 8 day period in September of 2017. Before OneGoodTurn’s arrival Expert-Exchange conducting it’s own research and aligned Dr Messer with several meetings ranging from universities, to clinics, to elected official, for an ideal overview of the medical situation at hand. Coming into this knowing education would be crucial for solving the problem and getting volunteers and outreach.
We recently welcomed Dr Messer from OneGoodTurn.org to Cambodia for an 8 day intensive medical assessment of the health care education and system. Dr Messer started the trip of by meeting with the University of Punthisastra and meeting with their Steering board and departments heads from the Pharmacy, Nursing, Dentist, and Medical departments. The meeting was Dr Messer’s first in Cambodia and turned out to be very fruitful. At the meeting we went over the great need for hands on clinical experience for the Cambodian Medical students and help structuring the curriculum. Dr Messer has agreed to tenatively return and help develop the curriculum and teach with University of Punthisastra, ideally bringing more Doctors to volunteer and build a better partnership in the future.
Expert-Exchanges idea and future role besides facilitating important connections like this and our vast network in Cambodia, is to work alongside universities that have a developed medical curriculum and enable students from all provinces in Cambodia to become involved and get educated. Our thinking is if Expert-Exchange and other people can sponsor students that are highly motivated and intelligent and have them upon graduating agree for a period of time to work back in their own community or a community of our choosing that is in higher need of medical assistance, this will expedite the development the medical system and also build infrastructure with a university alumni network. If we do this over a period of time we will help restructure the medical community in Cambodia and spread the amount of medical competency across the country quickly. The idea is to have a good base of education, followed by a good network with outreach giving back to rural clinics and larger hospitals. All of this will be under the Ministry of Health so Cambodia is taking charge and developing its medical infrastructure alongside the next generation of Cambodian medical students. This will result ideally in organization and cut down on aid work being done under the radar of government super vision.
After visiting with the University of Punthisastra Dr Messer joined Expert-Exchange in Siem Reap province to conduct a more hands on assessment and meet with local officials in charge to get their view. We linked up with Trailblazers Foundation in Siem Reap and Ratanak who is a Cambodian that understands development very well. Trailblazers Foundation and Ratanak main focus is on safe water access with water wells and filters along with helping with agriculture, but since they have such a good relationship with the community they were able to help make introductions to the local clinic doctors and the District Commune Governor.
Dr Messer’s first day of work included three clinic visits and one meeting with the District Commune Governor in Siem Reap. The first clinic that we visited was recently built by the US Navy Seabee’s and was very impressive structurally. The main concern of the head doctor and nurse at the clinic was lack of medical training along with proper medical supplies. This issue was not uncommon as we went on with our assessment. We found the clinics to be built nice, however understaffed and lacking the medical education. All of these things are fixable and can incorporate more medical volunteers to engage with education, alongside using the medical students at the colleges to do hands on work at these clinics with the medical doctors volunteering.
Expert-Exchange is always looking how to help a project with focus on sustainability in the long-term so we are not having to repeat our work 10 years down the road. We find that with the medical projects it is a good mix of short-term fix solutions, with Doctors helping hands on at the clinic alongside local Cambodian Doctors, Nurses, and Medical Students. Along with this having a good long-term effect by exchange of information and education in a developed curriculum and outreach education program. This is why the Ministry of Health’s involvement and higher standards will be so important for the future success of any medical development project.
The second clinic we attended was located behind a landfill and the community often went through the trash in search of items to use or sell. This clinic was understaffed and in need of some basic medical equipment. Their room where they females gave birth lacked a light, which was the most alarming and urgent need we came across here. Like all the other clinics that were extremely open to receiving more volunteers and education exchange.
After this clinic Dr Messer, Expert-Exchange and Ratanak ended up meeting with the District Commune Governor about his concerns for health care and the community. The Governor was very open to the idea of Dr Messer and Expert-Exchange helping as long as we included the Ministry of Health. The Governor voiced his concerns on 2 districts in specific that needed help the most, one of them lacked a health care clinic and was a community on the water and the other was more rural so volunteers didn’t attend that clinic as easy as others closer to Siem Reap town. With the permission of the Governor and Ministry of Health we went out to the two locations suggested by the Governor.
The first location that the Governor suggested we visited immediately after the meeting. This clinic was again structurally built very nice and had the same issues as most clinics. There were a few things that were concerning with this clinic, 1) the high rate of TB in the community and whether they are accurately diagnosing this correctly and 2) The education level, we showed up and there was a dengue test positive on the table for a patient. The nurse informed us though that the patient did not yet have dengue, even though the test was taken and it showed a positive result. This raised another issue with when looking at the diagnosis and pharmacy logs, are they over prescribing things wrongly and are local clinics accurately able to diagnose TB and Dengue along with other illnesses. These are all concerns that will loop back to the universities and the education level aspect with hands on experience and in the long-term with medical students being educated with more hands on approach solve this issue through out Cambodia.
After this clinic, Dr Messer and Expert-Exchange decided to visit the floating village the following day and talk to the village chief and hear his concerns for the community. This village was also the Governor’s priority and the village is located on water 6 months of the year and the water dries up the other 6 months of the year, so half the year it is floating and the other half it is dry land. They recently had a private company from China come in and install power, however this private company charges 5 times the normal prices and many homes can not afford the power so they still use generators.
The village chief was very open and helpful with explaining the main medical problems faced in the area and open to Dr Messer’s feedback and help. We also met with the village nurse who was able to indulge in more detail on specific diagnosis and numbers of cases. Their concerns were the same as the other clinics along with them not having their own clinic. Their community suffered from a high rate of alcoholism too. Among that we found upper respiratory infections to be the leading illness in the rural areas we visited. Also Diabetes, high blood pressure, arthiritis and this year was higher than normal for Dengue. Every 5 years there is usually an uptick in Dengue and this year is that year.
After listening to the village chief and the nurse Dr Messer decided we would run a basic Albendazole and Vitamin A clinic the following day. Expert-Exchange also provided tooth brushes and tooth paste with soap. Dental hygiene is of concern in Cambodia and that would be a completely separate medical assessment.
That following day we had two separate clinics in the community and saw around 600 people. The clinic turned out to be a success and Expert-Exchange will return in 6 months as promised for their follow up doses. With Albendazole and Vitamin A they are taken one time every six months for preventative measures and helps with deworming and cognitive health.
After the successful outreach and health clinic Dr Messer and Expert-Exchange flew back to Phnom Penh for a few follow up meetings. Dr Messer was able to meet with two highly motivated medical students from University of Punthisastra to ask them questions about their education and also what their concerns and feedback would be about the healthcare system. The meeting was extremely productive and has resulted in Dr Messer planning on returning to Cambodia to teach classes here and possible help develop the medical curriculum.
Expert-Exchange will be releasing a detailed report of our medical assessment project soon and if you are interested in receiving a copy please contact Expert-Exchange. With Dr Messer and the support of everyone involved we were able in a short period of time to take an in depth look at multiple angles of the health care system from public to private sectors, along with local government to the Ministry of Health. We were able to look at the health care system and assess from the basic clinic level from public and private clinics, to understanding the education and supply chain, to understanding the future education and helping implement a deworming clinic, and also making sure to work hand and hand with the Ministry of Health in recording and conducting outreach. There was a lot done and Expert-Exchange provided Dr Messer with a clear medical assessment that covered a variety of levels that make up the whole. Expert-Exchange will now continue with the assessments in more areas and conduct basic Albendazole and Vitamin A clinics at the request of provinces and communities in Cambodia.
This month we have been preparing for a very significant and complex project to take place in September. Expert-Exchange is pleased to announce we will be hosting a medical doctor from the United States who will be here in Cambodia for an initial assessment project. Dr. Messer, from onegoodturn.org, will be assessing the healthcare and medical needs of areas in Cambodia along with options for longer-term humanitarian aid work, combined with educational cooperation between universities in the U.S. and universities in Cambodia.
The role of Expert-Exchange includes assisting and facilitating all meetings and appropriately coordinating proper introductions between parties in Cambodia who can facilitate the mission. Dr. Messer will be meeting with medical doctors and pharmacists in Cambodia who are experts in their field. She will also be in meetings with universities to see if we can develop an education program and long-term exchange program. Plans are to visit other NGOs and mobile clinics to see the differences and what works best between private and NGO sectors in health care. Finally, it is our intention to learn about and gain an understanding of the advances that Cambodia has made lately since the genocide and how their historical and very challenging past as a war-torn nation, has not defined them. I will share more about the results of this initial assessment visit and project in my blog for September. Ideally the outcome will be a long-term collaborative project from the meetings and introductions of the medical professionals in Cambodia with this medical doctor from the U.S.
Expert-Exchange is actively seeking one or more Veterans to join our team in both temporary and more permanent situations. The amount of time and effort is flexible. If you have a sense of adventure and a desire to serve humanitarian causes, please consider adding your name by signing up on our website or contacting me directly, if you prefer. Sponsorship for travel to Cambodia, with lodging covered, is anticipated to be available in the near future. We encourage you to contact us soon if your interest and availability is aligned with this opportunity.
Expert-Exchange was founded in 2014. As the founder, I have been in Cambodia since that time paving the way for other Veterans to join. The model with Expert-Exchange is built around the idea of Veterans using their skillsets and desire to continue to serve for the purpose of doing humanitarian work. We anticipate that after the project with the medical doctor, and sponsorship of a Veteran to join us in 2018, the true reason Expert-Exchange was founded will come to life. In order to prepare and move forward, we will need a number of Veterans participating soon. For those who would like to step up and become more active in efforts to help humanity, including making improvements to impoverished or disenfranchised communities in another country, or if you can help us get the word out to facilitate this mission, or if you know someone who might be a good candidate to do so, please get in touch!
We have a very exciting project coming up in September that has been in the works for a sometime. All the hard work and planning is coming together. We will continue to support the schools and children with supplies for school this fall.
Expert-Exchange will be working with One Good Turn this September along side other NGO's and Cambodian medical colleges to assess a plan for a long-term sustainable medical project and conduct medical outreach with local clinics this September. More in the following blog to come on details!
In the beginning, the road less traveled can be hard and confusing sometimes on how to navigate. The idea for Expert-Exchange to become a model of the "Peace Corps" for Veterans is still just this, an idea. Right now, we have been using volunteers from all over the world in Cambodia to help with our projects, but have yet to have a Veteran join us. As the Founder and a Veteran myself, this concerns me some. I have been laying the ground work for two solid years now and have not had my vision come to fruition yet. The main set-back is funding, with the airfare from the United States or other locations being relatively expensive.
Here is the thing though, I am 100 percent sure there are Veterans right now who want to help and who are more than willing to come here to Cambodia. There are Veterans who have completed their time in the military and still desire that sense of purpose beyond themselves again and who would desperately thrive on the adventure of a new mission. This mission would be different. It would be not of that with war, but quite the opposite. This mission would be to aid humanity - specifically in Cambodia – by helping develop the country post-war. The implications of this idea are powerful for many reasons. It has multiple positive outcomes including preventing suicide and post-military negative transition; provide meaningful assistance to a developing country with positive culture exchanges between our countries; and, ultimately to be part of contributing to the better aspect of humanity and providing for human needs.
Veterans have tremendous discipline already and are ideal candidates for humanitarian work. I really believe that this is an untapped demographic for aid work, because it is such a natural transition minus the weapons.
What will we be doing in the future to make sure this idea is not just that, an idea. We will start looking for Veterans to sign up for a waiting list and apply for future projects. We will be seeking partners and donors to get this from a concept to reality. Last, we will also be seeking to work with experts to have long term sustainable projects that truly provide enrichment to the country and not just the volunteers.
As the Founder of Expert-Exchange I thank the support from the rear that I have at this time. This support is instrumental to the success of this organization. What I am challenging and looking for is that fellow Veteran who believes in this as much as I do to come join me and make this happen. We can lead the way to creating an organization for our brothers and sisters to find that sense of purpose again and also we will be helping with big problems in the world. Do you want to help? Reach out to us and let us know how you want to get involved!
The month of May was busy for us continuing our projects in Cambodia and developing new relationships back in the United States. We are in the beginning process of planning medical and business projects for Cambodia. We will be planning longer-term projects that have a business sustainable impact for regions in Cambodia to grow jobs and reduce poverty. We are also planning a medical trip with outreach and education in the next few months.
Executive Director's Blog
Follow Macie through SE Asia as he embarks on a humanitarian adventure and assists inspirational individuals to improve their life quality.