The Taking Paediatrics Abroad Story
The early experiences of Founder Dr Kathryn Currow inspired and informed her later work with the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network and Sydney Child Health Program and led to the establishment of Taking Paediatrics Abroad.
The Taking Paediatrics Abroad Story
“As a young doctor I had an opportunity to help Cambodian refugees fleeing the devastation of the Pol Pot regime and subsequent Vietnamese invasion. The village I served was deep in the jungle near the Thai border surrounded by landmines and booby traps. It was confronting to hear first-hand everyone’s stories of atrocities, starvation and severe deprivation. The few children, mostly orphans, were, like everyone else, trying to recover from these traumas. Their resilience and determination to build a better future, and their gratitude for the support we could provide was utterly inspiring and humbling. I returned the following year, impressed both by what had been achieved and the number of babies born once nutrition and healthcare had improved! These two months were pivotal in giving a deep understanding of the plight of so many children and young people in similar difficult circumstances and served as a lifelong reminder of the need to help wherever possible.
Twenty-five years later, it was a moving experience to return to Cambodia to plan the expansion of a paediatric education program in Siem Reap.
Through the program, later named the Sydney Child Health Program, we provided paediatric training tailored to the specific environment and setting with the contribution of local tutors and global best practice content.
Cities and towns had progressed, however very poor people in the countryside still existed in a state of privation. I returned during my annual leave the following two years as a volunteer to help oversee junior doctors in the emergency department of Angkor Hospital for Children, Siem Reap. Once again, the enormous privilege of helping people in great need was fulfilling and enlivening as well as being a great learning experience in clinical medicine.
It was a time to reflect on the inequity experienced by children more broadly.
The impact of the paediatric education program in Cambodia led to its establishment in many other developing countries. It was a special privilege to visit and share with colleagues in the Indo-Pacific region and in Africa, gaining a richer understanding of the many challenges in health systems as well as cultural practices, connectivity, poverty and geographical factors that impact on the health and wellbeing of children, young people and families.
In parallel to this, visits to remote Australian Aboriginal communities throughout Australia where this education program could help doctors who cared for children and young people, heightened awareness of the inequity of health care for Australian Aboriginal children and young people. This experience, coupled with contributing to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Committee at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead has further motivated a commitment to advocacy and support for Australian Aboriginal children.
It was inspiring to encounter dedicated and talented doctors and nurses who cared deeply for the children and young people they served, often in very difficult circumstances.
A recurring theme has always been: How do we do better to enhance health and relieve suffering of children and young people so that they can flourish and fulfil their potential?
Repeated requests came over the years from overseas colleagues for Australian paediatric health professionals to share their expertise. When I moved on from 20 years with the Sydney Child Health Program, a discussion with a senior paediatric colleague who had been invited to volunteer overseas was the catalyst for creating Taking Paediatrics Abroad. Met with an enthusiastic response from international and a wide range of Australian colleagues, the program gained momentum.
In its international reach, Taking Paediatrics Abroad will build on the 14-year history of the successful international component of the Sydney Child Health Program and of many individual volunteers.
It is utterly inspiring to encounter so many health professionals working in paediatrics who are driven to improve the health and wellbeing of children and young people in Australian Aboriginal communities and in developing countries. Taking Paediatrics Abroad was formed to make this a reality.”
Dr Kathryn Currow
Founder and Managing Director, Taking Paediatrics Abroad
Children born into poverty are almost twice as likely to die before the age of five as those from wealthier families.
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