From Refugee Camps to Seattle Streets

A Volunteer Doctor With Medical Teams International Shares Her Experiences

by Harry Goldhagen; Published 9/12/20

Dr. Jill Hilty meeting with a mother and child in a refugee camp clinic
Dr. Jill Hilty meeting with a mother and child in a refugee camp clinic. Source: MTI

Medical Teams International (MTI) is an Oregon-based humanitarian relief agency, known for their work in refugee health care, disaster relief, and mobile dental programs. They provide care for refugees from conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, fleeing into Uganda.

Dr. Jill Hilty, a family practitioner from rural Colorado, has volunteered for three missions to Uganda and was scheduled for a fourth when the coronavirus pandemic shut down foreign travel. Since she had already set the time aside, she decided to volunteer to help MTI identify cases of COVID-19 in the homeless and underserved population of Seattle. MTI asked her to share her experiences in Uganda and Seattle.

She wrote: “I remember the tense atmosphere in our time at the border. The patients arrive under great distress. They are still in shock from what they had just witnessed or endured at the hands of the rebels. They are grateful to have survived, but their fear is palpable. I became very familiar with the brutality of war from witnessing their pain.

“I’ve learned how to communicate bad news about test results and prognoses. I’ve learned how to be by someone’s side through a fatal illness, and I have a place I can emotionally retreat to when I take care of abused children. However, I had never had to learn how to relate to people who have been tortured. This was a heartbreaking education and a process for me.

Read the full story here: From Kisoro to Seattle with Dr. Jill Hilty

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