05/25/2011

Globetrotting WVU Healthcare specialist shares travel wisdom

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Whether the purpose is work or leisure, almost anyone who travels to another country comes home with an altered world view. After five years of treating patients and offering medical training in the remote Andes of southern Peru, Brian D. Riedel, M.D., a pediatric digestive diseases specialist for WVU Healthcare, returned with a clear understanding of the dedication and commitment required for international work. In the current issue of the American Gastroenterological Association’s “AGA Perspectives” magazine, Dr. Riedel shared his insights for other medical professionals considering heading abroad.
Riedel and dentist: International field medicine requires the development of new skills. Dr. Riedel (left) learns emergency dental care from a visiting dentist.
Riedel’s “Lessons from the Southern Andes: A North American’s Perspective of Healthcare Challenges in Rural Peru” is a collection of reflections and observations gained from years of international medical outreach. Riedel’s travels began early in his career, through shorter mission trips to developing areas, each lasting a couple of weeks.

“I appreciated the magnitude of the need and at the same time was frustrated by the inability to make lasting, meaningful changes in such a short time,” said Riedel. “During this same period, I was involved back home in community development projects in impoverished urban neighborhoods. From this, I became a student of community development and began to understand the concept of ‘health’ as having much broader implications than simply medical care.”

That frustration led to a serious commitment, as the physician and professor packed up his family and left for the Peruvian mountains. The transition was a challenge for Riedel’s three sons, and the situation demanded adaptability of everyone. A willingness to go with the flow is one of the major requirements for the experience, said Dr. Riedel.

“If considering this type of work, especially on a long term basis, it’s important to be flexible and adaptable, to have an entrepreneurial spirit, a lot of patience and a good sense of humor. As the bedrock foundation for it all, you have to be passionate about and deeply committed to your purpose in going. It’s that teeth-gritted passion and commitment that will keep you on the ground and effective when the challenges invariably come.”

Riedel noted that the stress of immersing oneself in a completely different culture can be overwhelming. Just learning the language and adapting to societal expectations takes a great deal of energy and the sudden lack of modern conveniences can come as a shock. In short, a doctor has to be willing to persevere and perform to the best of his or her abilities with the given resources.
Morning commute: The morning commute: a river crossing en route to a remote jungle village for a health outreach campaign. 
“International work is not a place for someone who can’t make it in their field in the U.S.  Social conscience and dedication to justice demand that we give our very best and insist on the same standards of quality even in the most remote and underserved places,” he said.

Riedel plans to remain active in improving healthcare around the world. He is currently part of a committee to develop a fellowship training program in gastroenterology in Ghana.

“It’s been more than a year now since I’ve left U.S. soil,” he said. “And I’m getting itchy feet.”

Photo captions:

Riedel and dentist: International field medicine requires the development of new skills. Dr. Riedel (left) learns emergency dental care from a visiting dentist.

Morning commute: The morning commute: a river crossing en route to a remote jungle village for a health outreach campaign.

-WVU-


11-119
For more information:
Leigh Limerick, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
limerickl@wvuhealthcare.com
lal: 05-20-11

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