World Hepatitis Day

26 July 2017

Last October, MSF opened a clinic in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, offering treatment to people with hepatitis C. Over 4,000 diagnoses later, World Hepatitis Day gives the team a chance to reflects on what they've achieved...
 
Friday, July 28th is World Hepatitis Day, a commemoration I never knew about until I joined MSF’s hepatitis C clinic in Cambodia. Suddenly this day seems critically important for everyone to know about. I think it needs its own mythological creature, like the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, who can be trotted out for promotional purposes. How about Jeannot the Jaundiced Hepatocyte, a quadrangular yellow emoji you can hang on your door knocker to let the neighbors know how you feel about liver health?
 

 
Jeannot, my proposed World Hepatitis Day mascot. He’s wearing a beret, because MSF’s Paris Operational Center runs this project, and his mouth is really a nucleus, in case any of you are cell biologists. I designed him myself. You can see why I’m a doctor and not a graphic artist.
 
But seriously, people, hepatitis is what we do here in Cambodia, and World Hepatitis Day gave us a nice chance to gather the entire MSF team together for a slideshow of our accomplishments. Here you see nurses, registration clerks, lab technicians, housekeepers, logistics team members, doctors and pharmacists all crammed together in the garage of our office:
 

The clinic is crowded with people sitting on rows of stools, with a few empty ones at the front of the image
Plenty of room in front, people!
 
Dr San, our Medical Activity Manager, and the funniest man in Cambodia, presented our accomplishments since the clinic opened last October: more than 10,500 people screened for hepatitis C, more than 4,400 diagnosed, and 1,524 people started on treatment. That’s a HUGE number of patients to have seen in the tiny clinic space we have. It’s a real testament to the hard work of our national staff.
 

Dr San stands by a screen with a presentation projected on it. He has his glasses balanced on top of his head.
Dr Chamroeun San Kim, aka “Dr San” or “Fearless Clinic Leader.”
 
Do I sound proud of our clinic? Well, that’s because I am proud. Every day we walk through a crowd of anxious patients to get to the clinic, and every day we confront apparently insurmountable obstacles, and yet every day we are getting people treated for hepatitis C. Every member of staff believes in what we’re doing, and they all agree that the patient comes first. I feel like I’ve waited my entire professional life to work with a group of like-minded people, and I found them in Cambodia. I’m just lucky that way.
 
So, for World Hepatitis Day, print out a copy of Jeannot the Jaundiced Hepatocyte, hang him on your front door, and maybe make a donation to MSF, where every dollar saves hundreds of hepatocytes like Jeannot.