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How Health Volunteers Overseas Works


Health Volunteers Overseas Divisions and Programs
A Bhutanese child with a cast on his arm in the orthopedic ward at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu, Bhutan. The HVO operates several programs at the hospital.
A Bhutanese child with a cast on his arm in the orthopedic ward at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu, Bhutan. The HVO operates several programs at the hospital.
Photo courtesy Jim Matiko

Volunteers with HVO serve in more than 60 programs in one of 13 different divisions:

  • Anesthesia
  • Burn management
  • Dentistry
  • Dermatology
  • Hand surgery
  • Internal medicine
  • Nurse anesthesia
  • Nursing
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery
  • Orthopedics
  • Pediatrics
  • Physical therapy
  • Wound management

Divisions operate independently in a lot of ways; their programs vary greatly depending on the individual needs of the people in the area and the technological capacity. Each division also has a steering committee, which decides where the greatest need lies for the type of medical education and training that its volunteers can provide. They then design a program along with local organizations. Each program has a volunteer director, who is responsible for the screening and oversight of its volunteers.

Divisions are also sponsored by one or more professional medical associations, of which volunteers are members. For example, the Dentistry Overseas division is sponsored by the American Dental Association, while the American Society for Surgery of the Hand sponsors the Hand Surgery Overseas division. Since there are more programs than we have space to discuss in detail, let's take a close look at a specific program within the Pediatrics Overseas division.

Sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics Overseas has programs in Cambodia, Honduras, Malawi, St. Lucia and Uganda. The program in Uganda -- the first pediatric program launched by the HVO -- began in 1995 when HVO reached an agreement with Ugandan officials. This was the culmination of three years of work by the Pediatrics Overseas Steering Committee, whose members were appointed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The program recruits pediatricians to work with faculty in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at Makerere University and Mulago Hospital in Kampala.

Pediatric volunteers in this program lecture and train both undergraduate and post-graduate students as well as go on rounds and develop various training modules with their Ugandan counterparts. Pediatricians with subspecialties such as cardiology, neonatalogy and nutrition also work intensively with their counterparts to strengthen these programs.

Now that you know a bit about the HVO's programs, we'll discuss the basics of volunteering with the HVO in the next section.


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