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
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