Imagine living in an area of the world where only four doctors are available to serve 300,000 people. Imagine patients in critical need who have traveled hard miles to get to a hospital, then waited days to see a physician. Any "triage" that may exist is the work of a security guard rather than a trained medical professional. Imagine those who die waiting for this care, or never make it through the doors to assistance. This is the medical profile of Eastern Uganda today. However, Dr. Heather Hammerstedt '99 is investing her own time and finances to change this nightmarish situation and transform emergency health care in the region. She hopes that the model she and her partners have created and implemented may become a paradigm for emergency care throughout Uganda and Eastern Africa.
Hammerstedt's organization, Global Emergency Care Collaborative (GECC), thus far, has built an emergency department and stocked it with supplies. Beyond this, the group implemented an 11-month curriculum to teach critical nursing skills. Through this program, nurses become emergency nurse practitioners (ENPs) and gained the knowledge and experience to perform many of the same emergency procedures that physicians carry out regularly. On a continent known for conflict regions, the Ugandan government has distinguished itself through its cooperation with aid workers.
GECC aims to see the graduation of its fourth class of nurse practitioners within five years. The organization's 10-year plan includes the spread of this model throughout Uganda and Eastern Africa. Hammerstedt describes the Ugandan ENPs she trains and the patients she treats as, "resilient, strong and hopeful people." Today, she and her partners fund this project with minimal outside aid. However, this does not represent a long-term financial plan. Those who wish to help support this organization may make donations through www.globalemergencycare.org and help bring a lifeline to this fragile area of the world. - Maria Jacketti