Hear Me Now: A doctor without borders

[4 minute read]

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly changed how Providence partners both locally and across the world. Without the ability to travel internationally and with significant restrictions to services provided on the ground, it was necessary to think and partner in more creative ways to continue supporting local efforts in under resourced communities. One such partnership emerged in 2021 between the Providence Global and Domestic Engagement team and World Telehealth Initiative to establish a telementorship program with Providence physician volunteers and Nigerian clinicians.

Hear Me Now: Listen to Sharon Allen, co-founder and executive director of World Telehealth Initiative and Dr. James Beckerman, a cardiologist with Providence Health Institute, talk about this telementorship partnership.

Increasing access to healthcare around the world through telehealth

World Telehealth Initiative (WTI) is a non-profit organization devoted to addressing the health needs of the underserved by expanding access to care and increasing the quality of care by utilizing telehealth technology. Sharon Allen is their co-founder and executive director.

“50% of the world doesn’t have access to adequate healthcare,” said Allen. “We wanted to provide sustainable medical expertise to vulnerable communities throughout the world.”

In many of the locations that WTI now has a presence in, healthcare has often been unaffordable, and it can be very difficult to find quality care. Shortfalls of available healthcare workers and “the migration of these workers from countries with low-resources and immense need to areas of high-resources and greater personal opportunity,” called the brain drain phenomena, both contribute greatly to the disparities these communities face.

Since its founding in 2017, WTI has worked to “revolutionize global healthcare by providing quality medical expertise where and when its needed.” They have established numerous partnerships with medical facilities around the world and have developed a strong network of volunteer providers, like Dr. James Beckerman (featured in the Hear Me Now), to deliver core health care services and build local capacity.

Volunteers making a difference

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Beckerman traveled internationally to volunteer his time at different healthcare facilities, but this partnership between Providence and WTI has allowed him to continue giving back even while international travel wasn’t possible. “I was so happy when I got an email from the Providence team sharing this burgeoning partnership with World Telehealth Initiative,” said Beckerman. “It creates opportunities for people like me who enjoy this experience of accompanying other healthcare providers and learning more about the cultural intersections of health, illness, and poverty in different locations but made it so accessible.”

Beckerman is one of several Providence physician volunteers working with Nigerian clinicians to offer support for case analysis, specialty consultation, and didactic sessions to advance the knowledge and specialization of providers on the ground. These additional educational and mentorship opportunities make continuing education, which is currently not available in their own community, more accessible. In doing so, their desire to seek opportunities abroad is mitigated.

Learning takes place on both sides of the mentorship

Something the Providence physician volunteers have shared time and time again is the bidirectional learning that takes place over the course of these telementorships. The physician volunteers are able to strengthen their own understanding of providing care in alternate geographies as well as gain valuable experience that enhances their ability to serve diverse populations. Participating in this mentorship program has allowed Beckerman to be “more thoughtful about how [he] thinks about the clinical pathways we might take here and try to apply them to a setting that has different resources.”

The learning and connection that occurs through these mentorship relationships is truly life changing for all participants. With the success of this program in Nigeria, the Providence Global and Domestic Engagement team is currently scaling and adapting this telementorship model, with their partnership in a new WTI site in Longisa, Kenya. These experiences have allowed us to reconsider how we can best serve our global partners; this program has shown the immense good we can do even from a distance.

Listen to the Hear Me Now

To learn more about the partnership between Providence and World Telehealth Initiative, check out the Hear Me Now episode featuring Sharon Allen, WTI co-founder and executive director, and Dr. James Beckerman, a cardiologist with Providence Health Institute.

How to get involved

Volunteering opportunities are all around us.

Why not find an opportunity to serve today? There’s a volunteer opportunity for every skill set, from tutoring students to rebuilding homes. Start with a quick Google search: “Volunteer opportunities near me.” VolunteerMatch and the United Way are also great sources to connect you to your next service activity.

Visit our Annual Report to our Communities page

To learn more about what we’re doing to help our caregivers and other community partners, check out our Annual Report to our Communities. 

Related resources

The power of partnership: strengthening global health, together

SeaView recovery housing gives individuals a safe place to heal

How Providence sustained thriving global partnerships in a pandemic

About the Author

Community Partnerships is a division that aligns the influence of Providence to create stronger communities, raise awareness, and illuminate a pathway that inspires all to serve. Through partnerships, we work to improve the health of our nation and achieve our goal of Health for a Better World.

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