Q: Tell us about your international rotation experience.
During my medical school and internship years at Brown University, I collaborated with my mentor Anne S. DeGroot, M.D., from the Global Alliance to Vaccinate Against AIDS, to identify, raise funds for, and train medical professionals to use an ultrasound machine for a community-based clinic in Sikoro, a slum of Bamako, Mali.
In Mali, pregnancy and childbirth complications are responsible for one-third of deaths of women aged 15 to 49. The goal was to use imaging to reduce pre- and perinatal morbidity and mortality.
The ultrasound machine unexpectedly monopolized all the power in the village. I collaborated with the local engineer, electrician, pediatrician, medical director, and executive director to solve the issue, which was difficult because we all spoke different languages. After three weeks, we succeeded, demonstrating that "it takes a village." It was a wonderful moment when we plugged in the machine and it finally worked.
“Previously collecting dust in the hospital basement, it [ultrasound machine] was viewed as a ‘gift from above’ by the village chief.” — Rebecca E. Gerber, M.D.
I also trained the local sonographer and pediatricians how to use the ultrasound machine to estimate delivery date and identify potential complications. Now, the village women have access to imaging as a routine part of their obstetric care, which is rare in Mali and Africa in general.
This imaging tool, seemingly obsolete in the United States, may be an incredible boon in a more resource-poor community. Previously collecting dust in the hospital basement, it was viewed as a "gift from above" by the village chief. I humbly think that we all should value imaging's role to such a degree. This project further solidified my commitment to coupling international health with radiology.
Rebecca E. Gerber, M.D.
Diagnostic Radiology, PGY-3 Resident
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.