Response: Colonization and the Global Health Mindset

Response: Colonization and the Global Health Mindset
January 17, 2020 Nicole Rodriguez

Recently, an OPED on NPR called for the end of the colonization of global health work (article here) .  Too many American students and doctors are traveling abroad for short term medical missions, continuing the damage done over generations of poor policy and colonization.  


At Timmy Global Health, we have been taking US based college students and medical professionals abroad for more than 20 years.  Early on in our tenure, admittedly, we focused more on the outcomes of our students and volunteers, believing that the experience of a service trip would lead to more compassionate and empathetic doctors here in the US.  While the intentions of our organization were in the right place, over time, an organization must be more concerned with impact over intentions.


To Timmy’s credit, more than a decade ago, we decided to “go deep” in communities rather than “wide”.  We have created a continuity of care model that, we believe, improves the health outcomes of communities, while focusing on building capacity of our local partners and systems.  This model includes:


  • Local Partnerships:  The most important aspect of our model is our in-country partnerships.  We work with a variety of different partners and NGOs that allow us the privilege of serving in their communities.  These partners help us connect with local leadership and identify the areas of greatest need.


  • Year-round staff in each of our 8 sites:  Timmy employs Medical Programs Coordinators (MPCs) in each of our sites, which serve nearly 100 communities.  Our MPCs and international staff consist of individuals from six different countries and live in the communities we serve, building trust and long-term relationships.


  • Consistent clinics:  Timmy visits the same communities with volunteers every 3-4 months.  This allows us to provide follow up care to chronic patients and see new patients maintaining a needed level of consistency for our communities.


  • Referral program:  Over the course of a week, our clinics will see upwards of 600 patients.  Many of these patients need chronic or specialty care. Our robust referral program connects patients with the local healthcare systems, ensuring patient appointments, transportation, and payment assistance, when and where needed.


  • Cloud based Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system:  Timmy uses a cloud based EMR system that allows our ever-changing groups of partners and volunteers to have medical history and prescription information for every patient that has come through past clinics.


  • Local Providers:  Last year alone, Timmy engaged 77 local medical professionals across our sites.  We currently employ a full time Ecuadorian nurse, while supporting two local Dominican doctors and one Guatemalan doctor.


  • Public Health and Prevention:  Recently, Timmy has begun to focus more on prevention, education and public health programming.  From our nutrition program, safe water pilots, diabetes initiatives, and work with Community Health Promoters, our investment in local public health initiatives continues to expand.


More recently, Timmy has narrowed our focus to become more community centric, impact driven, and sustainably empowering communities.  We believe that engaging volunteers can help create a community of global leaders, working together to advocate for global health, creating a more connected, vibrant, and healthier world.


Timmy Global Health has come a long way in our 22-year history and certainly has a long way to go.  Our model must evolve and commit more of our resources to building the capacity of our local partners and systems.  In 2020, we are investing heavily in our community health worker strategy, along with monitoring and evaluation. We are committed to proving the impact of our model, expanding our network of corporate and philanthropic partners, and growing the number of communities within our model.