And… we’re back!

By Lawrence Loh, MD MPH

We’re back after a long-absence: it has been a busy few months this winter here at The 53rd Week. Some of the highlights include:

  • Ongoing work towards launching the web platform: with the help of a great team out of the University of Massachusetts, we went live with the La Romana collaborative platform early in March. Since then, we have been working hard in recruiting local leadership as well as other team leaders to join the website and make use of its tools, particularly the discussion forums and calendar. The response we have received are has so far been encouraging, and our hope is to launch collaborative projects once we have a critical mass of data and teams on the website.
  • We have continued our research work into the needs and baseline trends of disease of the Haitian refugee community in La Romana. We have received ethics approval for two studies: a quantitative analysis of charts collected by visiting medical teams, together with our partners at the University of Massachusetts, and a qualitative analysis of themes in semi-structured surveys examining the basic needs and concerns of batey residents and hospital personnel in the local community. Initial analyses have been conducted and draft manuscripts are being prepared for publication! Ongoing research into the phenomenon of short-term medical volunteer trips in general also continues, with a commentary as well as an economic analysis due out in short order thanks to the great work of our volunteers.
  • We have also begun to carry out our work in advocating for more ethical and responsible volunteer work abroad, speaking out against self-serving “voluntourism” and highlighting that short-term trips can be useful, provided volunteers are realistic surrounding their scope and limitations and conduct themselves to a responsible ethical standard. Our talks highlight The 53rd Week’s philosophy: that in their current form, short-term medical experiences are limited in outcome, but modern life constraints in finances and time make them attractive to young professionals, students, and sending institutions alike, who benefit largely at the expense of the local community partners. Later blog entries will talk about our presentations McMaster University, the March Meeting of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations, and the Consortium of Universities for Global Health meeting.
  • Our organization continues to complete the process towards applying for 501(c)3 status, and is also doing some other administrative work (e.g. filing our taxes for 2012!) towards building our profile and infrastructure. A lot of this is being taken on by great new volunteers who will be introducing in future blog entries.
  • At the same time, we are in the process of migrating to our new website (launching soon)! So stay tuned, and we look forward to bringing you more regular updates once we’ve transitioned
  • over to our brand new home on the web.

A productive few months, as evidenced by our inability to update our web, but hopefully we’ll share our new space soon. In the meantime, you can check out some of our recent talks on our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/The53rdWeek – feel free to share widely with your friends and family.

Dr. Lawrence Loh is Chief Medical Officer of The 53rd Week.

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