Fieldset
Fighting Hepatitis in Cambodia: Beginnings and Endings
Theresa is an MSF doctor, currently working at a hepatitis C clinic in Cambodia. As she approaches the end of this, her first posting with MSF, she reflects on the movement and change inherent to life with MSF...
When I was offered this first MSF assignment in Phnom Penh, I read about the project and thought, “Wow, the clinic is brand new for MSF, just like me.” The first patients walked into our clinic only about a year ago, so I guess this is an anniversary season for us, a time to remember our beginnings.
Starting and stopping are very much on my mind these days. We have a new doctor working in the clinic, Dr Dina. He graduated from medical school two years ago but this is his first clinical job. While I was training him, he made photocopies of all of my progress notes, and now I notice his notes are formatted eerily like mine. I used to study the notes written by my elders when I was just starting out in this business, but it seems like no time has passed since then, and here I am getting imitated in turn. I’m telling you, it’s enough to make a woman feel old.
Meanwhile there is a lot of staff movement going on among the international staff. Our long-time finance/HR coordinator, Arthur, just left after 13 months with the project, and Sharif is taking his place. These three gentlemen (from left to right: Sharif, Arthur and Country Representative Mickael) have about 50 years of MSF experience between them, and have covered most of the globe on assignments. Me, I’ve only got six months and one country in, so listening to these three guys talking about MSF is like eavesdropping on the Warriors after game 3 of the NBA playoffs: world-class.
 
Photo of Sarif, who has dark curly hair, Arthur, who has a shaved head, and Mickael (bald with glasses).

At the "Goodbye Arthur"/"Welcome Sharif" party. Photo: Theresa Chan / MSF.

Then there are some of us who are contemplating the end of our assignments, whether this happens two weeks or two months from now. There’s been a lot of head-scratching at how fast time has flown by, and then the nagging feeling that there isn’t enough time for us to get things done the way we were hoping to before we left. But before we get bogged down in our perceived failures, it’s time to rearrange the desks in the office, because a new project coordinator is joining us next week, another staff member, another reminder that movement and change are the only constants in the world of MSF.

Beginnings and endings have been leaking into my to-do list as well. Right now I’m working on writing the MSF guidelines for treating hepatitis C, which will be the basis for the Cambodian national guidelines one day when our clinic is turned over to the Ministry of Health, so even as we are recovering from the busy beginning of this clinic, we are contemplating its end. This would be heavy stuff to contemplate, but then I get the news that one of our doctors just gave birth to her first child, a boy. She herself is the daughter of a former MSF staff member, so we like to joke that this kiddo will be the third generation of MSFers from her family:
 
 
A quite new baby yawns, while swaddled in a yellow blanket.

Do we even have an MSF vest in newborn size? Photo: Theresa Chan / MSF.

All around me there is movement and change, movement and change. I am learning to embrace it as part of the MSF way of life.