Myanmar is a country of many ethnic groups, who because of its history, has not had access to modern medicine until recently. They have lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality and death rates than neighboring countries. About one quarter of the people live in poverty. This area is very under-served, and in great need of help.
This is my third assignment with Health Volunteer Overseas. I truly believe in this organization’s mission to improve global heath through education. HVO has been active in Myanmar since 2014, recruiting volunteers to help review, revise and support the orthopedic residency program and to provide sub-specialty training for the general orthopedic surgeons. I will be participating in patient care and surgical cases at both the Yangon General Hospital and the Yangon Pediatric Hospital.
My goal is to educate, empower and inspire the local orthopedic surgeons. I want to share my knowledge and experiences, so that they can better serve their injured and disabled patients.
Myanmar is one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, suffering from decades of stagnation, mismanagement and isolation. And, although Myanmar transitioned to a civilian government in 2011, the health care system still lacks significant infrastructure and funding. Health care spending accounts for less than five percent of the total national budget. Public hospitals here are not well-subsidized by the government, leaving patients to pay for everything themselves- IVs, medications, dressings, food, surgery and related implants. Prior to my arrival, I was in contact with Dr. Aung Theintay, the HVO program coordinator at Yangon General Hospital. At his request, I was able to transport over 100 lbs. of donated SIGN orthopedic equipment. Most road traffic accident patients could not afford the implants needed for their care.
There is also a significant physician shortage in this country.
Myanmar currently trains about 80 orthopedic residents a year. Residency is being increased from three to four years in 2018 to allow for more specialty training in the later years. There are currently only three subspecialty doctorate programs available after completion of their Masters Degree: spine, hand or pediatrics. Currently, there is a not an official Department of Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery.
Most of my time was spent at the Yangon's Children's Hospital with the Pediatric Orthopedic team. It was a very rewarding experience, in that their exposure to Pediatric Orthopedic subspecialists is very limited and they were very eager to learn from another source. I was able to participate in their daily ward rounds, clinics, and consults and offer opinions on treatment plans. I also had the opportunity to assist in their Ponseti casting and teach them different surgical techniques in the operating room. I look forward to returning some day to follow the development of these fine young surgeons along with the Department of Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery in Yangon.
Health Volunteers Overseas is a nonprofit organization working to improve global health through the education, training and professional development of the local health workforce in resource-scarce countries. Visit www.hvousa.org to learn more.