Doctors Serving People: Restoring Humanism to Medicine through Student Community Service

By Edward J. Eckenfels | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
The Community Today,
Tomorrow the World

Public health is a subject about which
one country can learn from another
.

—Amartya Sen, “Passage to China”

There’s no place on earth like the
world
.

—Brendan Behan, The Hostage

In the 1990s the United States, like the rest of the industrialized world, was going global, and cultural diversity was becoming the norm. The new global perspective was finding its way into health care and medicine: The AIDS pandemic does not stop at the border; people carrying contagious diseases can be in a country thousands of miles away in ten hours. The potential of telemedicine for transmitting medical information via computer networks was emerging. There was a new spirit of cooperation among scientists and clinicians worldwide. And there was already a group, Médecins sans frontières, or Doctors without Borders, dedicated to going to the poorest and most remote regions of the world to aid the sick and suffering.1 In the early 1990s, universal rights to health and well-being were getting revived attention at home, especially since the United States was, and still is, the only industrialized country in the world without universal health care. This sudden interest in international health added a new dimension to my focus on active participation in health care reform. Besides the obvious medical implication, such reforms now had a powerful political and social aspect not only on a local and national level, but internationally as well.

I was also becoming more personally involved in international health. During a summer visit to Rush, Professor Jeffrey Levett, an old friend and a professor at the National School of Public Health in Athens, Greece, stirred my interest in the emerging challenges of a global perspective in health and illness. He persuaded me that globalization provided an opportunity to get health care professionals from many countries to cooperate on addressing health issues that affected all of us. Moreover, the focus on the economic outcomes of

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