PARTNERS OUTREACH: Many Iraqi refugees live in this suburb of Jdeideh, just south of Beirut, and are served by Le Dispensaire St. Antoine clinic, where Merali worked during his time in Lebanon.
HASAN MERALI, MD, followed the 80-year-old patient to her home, a small, dark concrete room within the Shatila Refugee Camp in Lebanon, where rats scurried across the floor. During the home visit, the woman told of losing her entire family to the Shatila massacre in 1982 and noted she now is dependent for medical care on the kindness of doctors like Merali who volunteer at the camp’s outreach clinic.
The patient is one of many that stick with Merali, a second-year pediatrics resident at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children, after his visit to the Middle East in February. Merali traveled to the Lebanese American University (LAU) to work in its Department of Social Medicine and Global Health as part of the new Partners HealthCare International (PHI) Global Health Research and Service Program, which matches students and residents with international partners for work-abroad opportunities. PHI is sponsoring four projects in 2012, including the work of Vinod Nambudiri, MD, a second-year Dermatology resident at the MGH, who in April will spend two weeks in Delhi, India, focusing on ways to provide higher quality health care at lower costs.
For a two-week period, Merali taught LAU medical students, developed a problem-based learning case study and worked at two outreach clinics for both Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. “The case I wrote was that of a 5-year-old girl who had been sent to the Shatila Refugee Camp several months before with pallor and fatigue. Further testing revealed microcytic anemia and a final diagnosis of lead toxicity. This case was interesting because the patient had multiple environmental factors that had contributed to the lead toxicity.”
The case also allowed him to teach his students the importance of taking a thorough social history and participating in home visits if concerns arise during treatment. In the weeks following his return to the MGH, Merali has continued to serve as a mentor for the LAU students via the Internet. “This was a fantastic experience, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to not only see patients, but also teach medical students,” Merali says. “LAU has done an excellent job of integrating social medicine and global health into all four years of their curriculum. I learned how this model of medical education not only better prepares students to work with socioeconomically diverse populations but also inspires them to work with underserved patients after they finish their training.”
To read more about Merali’s experiences, visit the Partners HealthCare International blog at www.phmi.partners.org/News/PHMI-Blog.
Read more articles from the 3/23/12 Hotline issue.