Fighting Hepatitis in Cambodia: Medical Week

Theresa is a doctor from the USA who has been working in the MSF / Doctors Without Borders hepatitis C clinic in Cambodia. Here she gets a rare break from the clinic as she begins to look to the future...


After seven months in Cambodia, MSF sent me to Paris for Medical Week, a training for MSF doctors and nurses who plan to move on to future assignments.

Image shows MSF / Doctors without Borders Medical Week Training slides

Photo: Theresa Chan / MSF

This is the kind of thing I didn’t know about MSF before I joined: the fact that the organisation will take every opportunity to train its workers in skills needed in the field. Data collection and reporting is an example: here we are working up a sweat while calculating crude mortality rates, proportional morbidities, and bed occupancy rates at a hypothetical field hospital.

Image shows MSF / Doctors without Borders medics at the Medical Week training

Photo: Theresa Chan / MSF

It’s great to receive training on this subject, because in our home countries most of us don’t regularly participate in epidemiological reporting, even at this basic level. As we progress into clinical management positions within MSF, we’ll be expected to contribute to regular situation reports where such data will help guide the specific activities MSF performs in a given country.

Useful as the data reporting sessions were, it was a relief to have some fun, “hands-on” sessions about point-of-care blood tests.

Image shows a blood test session at the MSF / Doctors without Borders Medical Daytraining

Photo: Theresa Chan / MSF

The best part of Medical Week was the opportunity to meet MSF colleagues from all over the world, most of whom had more experience than I have and who had lots of advice for me, such as:

  • Get a cooling towel. There was only one in the team house in South Sudan and only the longest-serving member of staff was allowed to use it.
  • Wash your own underwear.
  • Bring chocolate with you when you go to the field.
  • Learn how to say “please” and “thank you” in the local language.
  • Ask questions!

For me, joining MSF was really stepping back into medical education. It's a chance for me to learn about how health care is delivered around the world, and the exciting part is that I am a part of that process, and not merely an observer.