Dr. Paul Farmer Receives $1 Million Prize * Rural Dental Care * Nurse Repairs Smiles

by Harry Goldhagen; Published 12/18/20

Angel Sightings is a periodic collection of stories and articles published on other sites that highlight medical heroes and their work. This collection features a $1 million philosophy prize for Dr. Paul Farmer, Medical Teams International providing free dental care for small rural towns, and a Swedish nurse who helps to bring smiles to patients with cleft lip and palate with Operation Smile.

Please share any heroes you come across here.

Dr. Paul Farmer Receives Million Dollar “Philosophy” Prize

Dr. Paul Farmer
Dr. Paul Farmer (PIH)

Dr. Paul Farmer, Harvard professor and founder of Partners in Health, was awarded the 2020 Berggruen Prize. National Public Radio interviewed Dr. Farmer about a medical doctor receiving a philosophy award, and about his role in bringing healthcare to those without access. In response to a question about health care accompaniment, he said:

“When people are unable to make choices — if they’re in prison, or refugee camps or are impoverished — they’re less able to adhere to a treatment. They need help outside the hospital or clinic. In Haiti, community health workers are called accompagnateurs, which means people who accompany. The community health workers do what your mother does for you when you’re sick and stay at home. She stays with you, she accompanies you. Accompaniment means: I’ll go with you and support you on your journey wherever it leads. I’ll keep you company.”

Read the full article: Dr. Paul Farmer Was Surprised To Get A Million Dollar ‘Philosophy’ Prize.

New York Times article: Paul Farmer Is Awarded the $1 Million Berggruen Prize

Providing Rural Dental Care for Free

Volunteers on the Medical Teams International dental unit
Volunteers on the MTI dental unit (MTI)

Once a month, a fully equipped dental van rolls into the parking lot of the town’s Rivers of Life Foursquare Church. The van and volunteer medical professionals are part Medical Teams International (MTI) and its free mobile dental clinic. MTI has the largest all-volunteer mobile dental program in the United States. Since 1990, it has responded to urgent issues of acute oral pain, decay and infection. The group’s dentists can relieve and heal these issues for many people through tooth extractions, fillings and gum-related cleanings.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people who can’t get dental care,” says Dr. Matt Johnston. “But if we can help just 10 to 12 people a month, they’ll be happier in life and more inclined to give, too.”

Matt has volunteered with Medical Teams for 10 years, having worked in Peru, Haiti and Romania. “Serving others who are less fortunate can make the world a better place,” he says. “Medical Teams gives us the opportunity to do that.”

The organization also has helped meet the demand for COVID-19 testing in rural Washington. Four of its 12 dental vans have been turned into mobile COVID-19 testing clinics for free, open-air testing four days a week.

Read the full article: Helping Healing Close to Home.

A Nurse Committed to Repairing Smiles

Nurse Andréa Berg and patient
Nurse Andréa Berg and patient (Andréa Berg)

For the last nine years, Andréa Berg has made a difference in the lives of patients with cleft palate and lip as a nurse for Operation Smile in Sweden, her home country. Nurses are the only medical volunteers who actively provide care for patients throughout every stage of the mission, from the initial screening to the post-operative ward.

But for Andréa, Operation Smile means so much more than surgery. It’s about giving the children a new life and new-found hope they didn’t see was possible.

Whether it’s playing with the patients, nurturing them with words of encouragement and love, or giving them more reasons to smile, “The smiles, hearts and tears you receive from parents… the confidence you get from the teenage boys after surgery, the pride you can see in their eyes. It’s such a difference from when you see them before surgery. Prior to surgery, all they wanted to do is hide,” Andréa said.

Read the full article: The Gift That Keeps Giving with Nurse Andréa Berg.

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About Angels in Medicine

Angels in Medicine is a volunteer site dedicated to the humanitarians, heroes, angels, and bodhisattvas of medicine. The site features physicians, nurses, physician assistants and other healthcare workers and volunteers who reach people without the resources or opportunities for quality care, such as teens, the poor, the incarcerated, the elderly, or those living in poor or war-torn regions. Read their stories at www.medangel.org.

Interested in writing for Angels in Medicine? Know about an Angel we should interview? Drop me a note at harry@medangel.org.

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