Dr. Victor Ladele, a medical mission physician who has worked extensively in Africa, shared his perspective and experiences with medical students at Case Western Reserve University on Wednesday. The lecture, titled “On the Front Lines: Medicine in Conflict and Catastrophe,” described Dr. Ladele’s myriad experiences practicing medicine in the most challenging environments.

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Through the stories he shared about his experiences working in Darfur and Liberia, Dr. Ladele described many lessons he has learned throughout his career. He encouraged medical students to understand the context of their work by learning the cultural factors that influence the perceptions and beliefs of their target populations. He also emphasized the importance of sustainability, an idea often overlooked in medical missions. By training local health workers, for example, Dr. Ladele encouraged “multiplying yourself” rather than providing a few direct patient care encounters that end as soon as the trip is over.

Most of all, he encouraged the medical students to get involved. For those who were interested in getting involved in global health, he encouraged them to try working abroad on a brief mission to see if they truly enjoyed working in such an environment. In doing so, he also pushed students to try to see the problems that currently exist and try to envision even the simplest solutions to them. Dr. Ladele shared multiple experiences in which small, incremental innovations were crucial to delivering care. He espoused a systems approach to innovation, suggesting that students try to understand how small improvements in organization and infrastructure can greatly impact care.

Finally, Dr. Ladele drew parallels between the problems in health care delivery during crisis and those that exist even in wealthy countries. Many of the same lessons apply in both environments, and Dr. Ladele encouraged students to use the same mindset to improve health care wherever they choose to practice.

Dr. Ladele shared deeply personal stories about his individual motivations to pursue such a challenging career and the impact of his work on his family. His candor and passion inspired the audience, and we thank him for sharing his wealth of experience with the Billion Bottle Project.

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