What Can Be Fixed

When I am in the US (seemingly rare these days), I end up with a lot of teaching and lecturing scheduled for the days that I am around. I have been talking quite a bit about global health these days (always fun), which is a good reminder for me about why I am doing what I am doing. I am someone who is motivated by thinking about how big problems can be fixed, and somehow it motivates me to talk about these problems.

Global health is still a big problem. The numbers wallop me over the head: 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty. 25,000 people dying every day of hunger. 900 million people without access to clean water. A 40 year difference in how long you are expected to live if you are born in the world's poorest countries, compared to the world's richest countries.


I became a pediatrician and a health services researcher because I wanted to change the fact that 6.6 million children around the world will die this year before they turn 5 years old. I think every child deserves a fifth birthday. All of my own work and research focuses on how we can provide the best possible care for children with HIV who live in poor places like Kenya.

HIV is not yet a problem we can forget about. There are still over 3 million children living with HIV in the world today, children who will die without access to the HIV medicines that can keep them alive. 90% of these children live in Africa. With HIV medicines, these children can grow into healthy adults --  they can grow into nurses and teachers and scientists and world-changers. But to keep these children growing, they need to be able to have access to medicines and to long-term HIV care.


HIV is not something I ever forget about because I see these children every day -- or I am working on projects to serve their families every day. And I am grateful to have the chance to work in a place that impacts the health of children far beyond where our medical school is located. Our AMPATH program makes it possible for 24,000 children with HIV to have a chance at a future. My own research work focuses on how we can best help families in places like Kenya meet the challenges of taking the medicines for HIV over the long term.

In the midst of a government shutdown that impacts all of the clinical work and research work that we do (yep, all of my projects and our entire Kenya care program are supported through U.S. government funding), my daily lectures, talks, and teaching opportunities give me a good chance to practice gratitude -- instead of just venting frustrations. When I talk about it, I remind myself just what I get to do and how much I love it.

And that is my goal for this second week of craziness -- practicing gratitude (silently and out loud) for what I have, for what I get to do, for what we are learning. My coping strategy when I want to yell and scream about how maddening everything is... gratitude. Because this is what can be fixed. Because I am the decisive element.

I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element.  It is my personal approach that creates the climate.  It is my daily mood that makes the weather.  I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration; I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.  In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person humanized or de-humanized.  If we treat people as they are, we make them worse.  If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe






Posted at 16:09


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