TEAM News - Summer 2011
Legacy of Care - 20 years of Medical Training in Emerging Nations
Twenty years ago, a small team of IRT volunteer medical specialists traveled to what was then the Soviet Socialist Republic of Latvia on the Baltic Sea, which was suffering from 50 years of isolation from advances in Western medicine. In response to the dire medical situation, IRT initiated a critical care training program for nurses at 3 major hospitals in Riga, Latvia’s capital city. None of us at that time foresaw that what had started out as a small medical assessment mission to Latvia would blossom into 20 years of providing major medical training programs not only in Latvia, but also in Lithuania, Romania, Armenia, Vietnam, and Russia.
As IRT established its reputation as an effective training organization, the medical community of Latvia asked IRT to develop a nationwide training program in Pediatric and Adult Resuscitation – a response to the tragic fact that many Latvians involved in auto accidents or who experienced life-threatening complications after surgery were dying needlessly because of lack of training on the part of first responders, emergency personnel, and intensive care specialists.
In the mid 1990’s, IRT was then asked to address the high maternal and infant mortality facing this small nation. IRT established a nationwide training program in modern obstetrics and neonatology, training select groups of physicians and nurses representing all major hospitals throughout the country. Finally, in 2003, IRT initiated “Project Healthy Baby” – a training program aimed at lowering neonatal deaths, by training caregivers in how to effectively resuscitate newborns experiencing breathing difficulties at birth, and how to provide effective postresuscitation care to the critically ill newborn.
As the effectiveness of IRT’s medical training programs became known to health leaders in other countries, IRT was invited to establish similar programs in Lithuania,
Romania, Vietnam and Central Russia. IRT also conducted burn, orthopedic and cleft palate surgical training programs in Armenia as well as cataract & ENT surgical training programs in Romania.
IRT trains “trainers” -- committed groups of local instructors who continue the ongoing training of other medical practitioners in their respective regions of responsibility. IRT provides these trainers with all the equipment, slides, and textbooks in their own language necessary for teaching others. IRT has translated and published medical textbooks/ syllabi in Latvian, Lithuanian, Romanian, and Vietnamese.
IRT’s medical training program impact has proven to be significant. According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, since IRT instituted its national training programs in Latvia and Lithuania reductions ranging from 32% to 68% of neonatal, infant and maternal mortality have been achieved in both countries.