Dr Graham Jay, Director of Paediatric Emergency Medicine Training at Gold Coast University Hospital, recently made a humanitarian trip to Laos to teach junior doctors training in paediatrics.
In his two months away, Dr Jay was a clinical supervisor and consultancy advisor helping develop paediatric specialists at The Lao Friends Hospital for Children in Luang Prabang, Laos.
In Laos, there was a strong need for the free public children’s hospital - approximately 64 of every 1,000 Lao children don’t live to the age of five, according to Friends Without A Boarder, the not-for-profit organisation which established the hospital in 2015. It sees on average 100 children every day.
The Lao Friends Hospital is the only hospital in northern Laos to exclusively offer critical neonatal services.
Dr Jay moved around various departments such as the emergency department, neonatal unit, inpatient or outpatient wards supervising the new doctors while they were assessing patients and initiating treatments.
He guided the junior doctors by conducting bedside teaching, signing-off appropriate procedures, quizzing them about differential diagnoses, and offered specific training on assessment of x-ray findings, laboratory findings as well as conducting one-hour tutorials.
Whilst Dr Jay was there to help Laos clinicians develop their specialties, he said he also learned a great deal from the experience.
“The value of good critical assessment,” he said.
“A stethoscope is an incredibly important tool in your assessment and you cannot necessarily be reliant on high levels of technology to have good outcomes. You can do a lot with very little.”
He also learned about the resilience of people in that part of the world.
“I bring back an awareness of inequalities in the world,” Dr Jay said.
“It gives us another perspective about what happens globally and it takes you out of your narrow spectrum, for example, just working in the UK or Australia or another developed nation.”
Dr Jay’s passion for doing public health work abroad is ongoing. Each year he teaches a paediatric emergency course in Suva, Fiji and has also done humanitarian clinical work in the Philippines.
Closer to home, he hopes to pursue qualifications in a Masters of Public Health in the near future.
“Personally, it’s very interesting to work in public health and tropical medicine … and contribute to other communities. In any case, variety is practice and expands your interest in your clinical arena,” he said.
“I feel like I’m just doing my bit.”
Compassion is a value demonstrated across Gold Coast Health by its workforce - Dr Jay is one of many doctors and nurses to volunteer in developing countries.