Doctors Without Borders interested in Northern Arizona medical professionals

‘Doctors Without Borders’ is looking to recruit volunteer candidates Tuesday night at the Coconino County Public Library in Flagstaff. 

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. 0 Doctors Without Borders is preparing to find health care professionals at an event scheduled for Thursday night.

Dr. David Spence is helping to recruit.  He has been on four different missions with the organization and said his medical work with a branch of the U.S. government known as Indian Health Services made him an ideal candidate.

“People that are attracted to Indian Health Service are by nature interested in other cultures,” Spence said.

Dr. Spence’s time in Winslow alongside community health workers prepared him for what was to come in developing nations.

“These are tribal or village people who get a short period of training in the basics of health care and then they are the eyes and ears for the rest of the health care team,” Spence said.

His team had to cooperate with and respect medicine men -- common in the Navajo tradition.

“You just have to be able to work with it and understand what role those traditional providers play in people’s health,” Dr. Spence said.

He also grew comfortable with the idea of having limited access to drugs, allowing for better management of resources.

“That’s the way it is in developing countries. There’s a list of essential medicines that a program tries to provide,” said Spence.

Besides critical medications, there was also a lot more Dr. Spence couldn’t count on on the reservation.

“Without running water, without electricity, that kind of thing. I really felt that I was well-prepared for the third world,” Spence said.

Dr. Spence never quite picked up the language of his host nations, but he said that was never a problem. He was used to getting help from locals on the Navajo Nation.

“I didn’t ever experience any real blockage to being able to provide care, but […] my communication went through a translator,” Spence said.

A spokesperson with Doctors Without Borders said recruiting in Flagstaff began in 2008. Over the last decade, about 25 professionals from our state have headed out on more than 60 assignments around the world. As of Monday, there were three field workers from Flagstaff registered with the organization.

The recruiting event is scheduled for Thursday, March 14, at 7 p.m. at the Coconino County Public Library.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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