What inspired you to volunteer with GO?
I started volunteering for GO in February 2015 shortly after meeting Ami Bhatt. I’m originally Eastern European, so The Belarus Palliative Care project immediately sparked my interest. Unfortunately, palliative care in Eastern Europe is often overlooked leaving many patients suffering from potentially manageable pain and discomfort. Growing up in rural Russia and Ukraine, I watched my relatives and friends struggling with health problems that could be easily resolved with adequate medical assistance and was looking for an opportunity to ignite [even little but positive] changes in the lives of the underserved.
What is your role as a GO volunteer?
As a GO volunteer, I participated in translating/interpreting teaching materials and presentations for The Belarus Palliative care project. In June 2016, I’ve got an opportunity to travel to Belarus with a team of GO volunteers to take part in the Oncology/Palliative Care conference. We met many healthcare professionals from Eastern European and Central Asian countries, visited a hospice and listened to stories about challenges patients and medical staff face day-to-day. This real life experience was extremely rewarding and inspiring.
In addition, I helped putting together a review of a state of palliative care in Kazakhstan for another GO volunteer traveling there for an Oncology/Palliative care roundtable.
When you’re working on a GO project, what most energizes you and why?
For me, global health and, especially, global oncology is not an abstract subject. I met many people in need through my travels and recognize that inadequate access to healthcare can dramatically affect people’s lives and wellbeing. Seeing how grateful those people are, how much they appreciate even little things you help them with keeps me motivated to continue with and expand my involvement in global health.
What do you gain from this experience?
GO provided me with a unique opportunity to meet like-minded people who are committed to addressing health disparities around the world, particularly, in LMICs. GO members have diverse backgrounds with a variety of skill sets, so we are learning from each other while working on a project. My experience allowed me to get exposure to an area of medicine I haven’t been familiar with – palliative care. I had no idea how important it is and how much of a difference proper palliative care can make in patients’ lives. More than that, Dr. Bhatt introduced me to the idea (revolutionary for me at the time) that cancer care doesn’t have to be expensive and resource-intensive; many lives can be saved even with basic treatments and tools.