The new Canadian doctor volunteered in the region of Loreto, Peru from January to March 2009.
“I was glad not to arrive empty handed,” she says. “I want to thank the companies for donating medicines and supplies to the PTPs. They were perfect and I had no problems with them.”
Newman arrived in Requena, a village deep in the Amazon, after an overnight boat trip. “Everything’s alive, all kinds of eyes were looking at us,” she says.
The patients she saw at the Centro de Salud Clinic were mainly unemployed or did not have medical insurance. The clinic serves a population of about 60,000. The young doctor was struck by the fact that very few drugs are covered by the state health insurance.
“There are not many doctors around,” she reports. “The people there are mainly cared for by technicians, who have two years of training.”
Newman, who has just begun a two-year family medicine residency with the University of Toronto, is particularly interested in obstetrics and gynecology. “I spent a lot of my time helping in labour and delivery,” she says.
“I have a strong memory of my 18-year-old patient who had just given birth for her first time,” she recounts. “The baby came early, so her partner, who was out working in the jungle, could not be there. The birthing room could not be more basic: a torn, rusted chair, no monitors, no gown for the patient. Sometimes there is not even running water. The baby was healthy, but I sure felt for the mother. I was happy to be able to prescribe her Tylenol from the PTP – the only pain relief she would get.”
Pain control is a major issue. “This patient was atypical in that she actually received something for her pain thanks to the PTP,” Newman says.
The Peruvian experience confirmed Newman’s desire to use her skills as a doctor in development work. “I would love to continue,” she says. “This experience confirmed that I would like to incorporate global health as part of my practice.”