Freeing the developing world from perpetual dependence on charity

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Global Medic Force (formerly ICEHA)
City & State:
New York, 
New York
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

The mission of Global Medic Force (formerly The International Center for Equal Healthcare Access) is to free the developing world from perpetual dependence on one-way western charity by teaching local doctors and nurses how to care for their own people. We work to ensure that all people have access to sustainable, quality healthcare by giving health professionals in developing countries the medical skills and clinic operations needed to treat their own people from within their own resources.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Julie Ahlrich’s daily commute to work in rural Lesotho involved a 45 minute drive in a 4x4 jeep to the river valley, a hike to the river itself, 10 jumps on unstable rocks across an inlet, a rowboat through the rapids, another hike up the valley and finally a 20 minute drive up the mountain.

Lesotho, a small landlocked country in Southern Africa, is being devastated by AIDS, with more than 23% of the population infected with HIV. Julie, a registered nurse from Washington DC, was in Lesotho as a volunteer with Global Medic Force to teach local doctors and nurses how to take care of HIV/AIDS patients.

Using Global Medic Force’s innovative rapid skill transfer model, Julie spent her days with the local providers and finding teachable moments. Each day, she would share her knowledge about HIV in practical ways so as to instill better practices among the local healthcare workers. She saw many patients come in near death’s door and she helped the doctors and nurses start them on anti-AIDS treatment. After three months of volunteer skill transfer work she left and hoped that her efforts had made a difference.

A few months later, Julie decided to return on vacation and visit the colleagues and patients she had worked with. The most outstanding aspect of her visit was the people she didn’t recognize. “Patients were chasing me down in the streets and coming to my door to show me how well they were doing. I didn't recognize most of them except for their eyes because their bodies had regenerated into another (healthier) form!”

The care the local health workers had been providing and the results she now saw amazed her. “When I was first in Lesotho at the start of HIV treatment,” Julie remarked, “most of what I saw was tragic. I was so blessed to go back and be able to see the positive results of my work with Global Medic Force.”

What Julie saw in her return visit is what is happening in Global Medic Force sites around the world: local doctors and nurses are learning how to take care of their own patients and as a result, hundreds of thousands of lives are being saved.

Global Medic Force, a 501c(3) nonprofit organization with offices in New York, London, and South Africa, was founded by Dr. Marie Charles in 2001. Using the “teaching to fish” principle, she developed a program that would “teach to treat” instead. In order to create sustainable healthcare in poverty-stricken settings, Dr. Charles decided to tap into the nearly unlimited resource of thousands of doctors and nurses with extensive HIV expertise in the West who were looking for a way in which they could have an individual, immediate and sustainable impact on the HIV epidemic. Through hands-on, practical coaching in clinics and hospitals, our volunteer health professionals transfer their expertise quickly and sustainably to local health workers, enabling them to provide quality HIV care within the resource limitations of their clinic settings. And as a result, patient numbers increase by 1600% within 9 months. What originally started as one pilot project in Cambodia has now flourished into country programs throughout 14 countries and across three continents.

The products donated by Microsoft through Tech Soup, particularly Office Suite, have been critical to our success. Microsoft Excel and Access have allowed us to create comprehensive databases to manage the more than 950 volunteer healthcare providers in our network. These databases enable us to track how new volunteers found out about Global Medic Force. Then, we focus our marketing on those areas, which has been extremely successful. For instance, since we began using Excel to monitor our recruitment statistics in 2006, the number of volunteers has more than tripled, from less than 300 to almost 1,000. Additionally, the average number of qualified applications we receive from volunteers has increased from 10/month to 20/month. Being able to track and analyze statistics about our volunteers has been a key component not only of increasing the number of volunteers, but also in ensuring that all volunteers have the skills and background needed to be successful mentors.

A second important use of the Microsoft products has been production of materials about our programs, which increase awareness about Global Medic Force among potential volunteers and partner countries who urgently need our assistance. Microsoft Publisher and Word have allowed us to create brochures and publications highlighting the impact our clinical mentor volunteers have on the lives of HIV patients each and every day. We repeatedly hear from country partners and volunteer applicants that they decided to approach us after reading an issue of our publication, Reports from the Field, which highlights the day-to-day work of our mentors in their own words. Since we began using these marketing tools in 2004, we have increased the number of country programs from a single program in Cambodia to 14 programs across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the South Pacific.

Finally, Microsoft Outlook allows us to manage our weekly communications with all the field volunteers in an organized manner. This helps us provide consistent feedback and quality control to ensure the programs are as successful as possible.

These examples are just a glimpse of the ways that Microsoft products have allowed Global Medic Force to expand and optimize our work to teach local health workers how to care for their own patients. Although the daily operations of analyzing databases, recruiting new volunteers, and putting together publications about the impact of our mentors may not be glamorous, it is absolutely critical in helping us reach more and more countries whose populations are desperately in need of basic, quality healthcare. In the words of one of our local partners in Vietnam: “I cannot tell you how many lives your volunteers have saved. We are so grateful for the clinical mentors you have sent to Vietnam.”

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery