Seeing the Pathfinder Difference: How One Hospital Transformed My View

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Pictures of a regional government-owned hospital in India visited by longtime supporter, Bonnie New.

As a doctor, I have traveled to clinics and hospitals all over the world. But what I saw in 2007 was a complete show-stopper.

I was traveling on a Friends of Pathfinder trip to visit the organization's programs in India, when we made an impromptu stop that put everything into focus for me. Even seven years later, I still can't shake what I saw from my mind. It solidified exactly why Pathfinder’s mission is so important – and I why I am a part of it.

Bonnie New

After meeting with leaders and residents from Pathfinder’s projects in a small, conservative Muslim village – hearing their stories of progress in family planning and reproductive health – we piled back into our van and drove through unpaved country roads toward Agra. On the way, we came upon a hospital in a small, sunbaked town in the Deeg area. We decided to stop.

A young doctor, who was trained in Russia and fairly fluent in English, greeted us. He was the only doctor, was on duty all the time, and took care of everything that came in. We were given a tour of the hospital ward – a single, long dark room with a dirt floor, patients on cots, and family members at most of the bedsides, providing care and feeding them with food they purchased from the vendors outside.

Having a particular interest in surgery, I asked the doctor if he would be willing to show me the operating room – just a quick little detour so we wouldn't keep the rest of the group waiting.

The room had running water, electricity, an adjustable operating room light and tile walls with unscreened windows to provide ventilation. The linoleum floor contained a single hole without piping for drainage. A few pieces of outdated medical equipment (heart monitor, respirator, suction), likely from the 1940s or 1950s, were scattered around. Several pairs of latex gloves were carefully laid out for drying after being washed and powdered for reuse (yes, reuse). 

This was a regional government-owned hospital, unrelated to Pathfinder’s work. It is representative of the level of care that is available in rural settings in much of the developing world. People accustomed to Western standards would not bring their pets to such a facility, let alone their loved ones.

For many people in the developing world, treatment in a facility like this is the only option they have. In contrast, the successful Pathfinder projects we saw, provide prevention and treatment services in well-managed, if basic, settings with appropriate and clean supplies.

Pathfinder’s efforts to prevent early marriage and childbirth, make antenatal and trained birth care routines, and promote appropriate spacing of births, make for healthier women and babies. And by working with communities to build up their health facilities, obstetric and medical complications can be prevented or properly addressed in these remote rural settings.

Pathfinder creates and implements higher standards of care for those who need it most - improvements we need to see all over the world. This, and its broader commitment to international reproductive health, is why I continue to support Pathfinder.

Bonnie New, MD,MPH, is a longtime Pathfinder supporter.

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