Category Archives: Uncategorized

We’ve moved!

Come visit us at our new website:

Our blog is also at – same great thought-provoking posts.

Another year, another step closer – happy holidays to all!

By Lawrence Loh, MD MPH

Our team is in the midst of final preparations now for our trip down to the Dominican this year. This time, our trip has a different sense of purpose – the thrill of experimentation and trying to see if our crazy idea to optimize short-term trips will be received by the community. Our website is in its final stages of completion, and we will be conducting a needs assessment in the community, using surveys and interviewing key people to figure out how we can best start to deploy the numerous volunteer teams that will come down in 2013.

We have also received tremendous support from family and friends who have given funds to support our volunteers in their expenses. Much of the money donated will go to helping students participate in the experience, which we hope will be both a valuable learning experience for them while allowing them to meaningfully contribute to improving the health of the indigent in La Romana. It’s not too late to donate still if you’re up for it, visit the website here at:

While our tax receipts this year will come through our partners at the Whites School of the Arts Community Development Programs, exciting changes are afoot for The 53rd Week. The plan will be to file for 501(c)3 status upon our return from the Dominican Republic to allow us to better source funding for our organization individually. At the same time, we are looking forward to welcoming new members to our team, and undergoing a website revamp here (the blog will continue, but we hope to be able to provide more detailed, exciting content about the work that we’re trying to put together.)

Being believers of collaboration and networking, we know the best ideas are spread if they come from those closest to us. It’s a great time to chat with our family and friends to ask the simple question of what we can do to make this world a better place and what work that would ultimately entail. With the holiday season coming up, it’s always a good chance to use the time with family and friends to push forward the cause of good. Instead of just remembering the less fortunate in your thoughts this year, consider quality time with family and friends to push and ask the wider questions of – what can we do about it? And why aren’t we doing something about it?

The old adage goes that nothing is more powerful than an idea—but beyond that, nothing is more powerful than an idea that has been challenged and vetted by those around us. Having our ideas and dreams challenged is a sure way to work towards making them more robust and feasible. Imagine how much would change if everyone just took this special time to truly describe their dreams and ideals and the opportunity and advice that could arise from sharing. In the busyness of our day to day life, the holidays are always a mind-oasis and respite.

The 53rd Week wishes you all a restful, relaxing, and meaningful holiday filled with the conversations that matter. We’ll see you in 2013!

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

Symposium: a step in the right direction

By Lawrence Loh, MD MPH

This is a blog entry coming live to you from a beautiful fall evening in Boston. I just arrived here and am getting ready to head out to the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass. tomorrow to participate in a symposium focused on bringing together all those different teams that work in La Romana. It’s not the first time that such an effort to gather everyone together has come through before, and indeed, there are some key players who are unable to make it for reasons of time or distance. But that said, there is reason to be optimistic this time that we’re going to start a bit more of a routine this time around.

Most of the people spearheading the effort thus far represent the younger generation in La Romana – medical students, residents, and recently graduated physicians who are indeed keen to make a difference. Together with the wisdom of the older members attending tomorrow, they will become more invigorated to see the efforts through despite grueling schedules and training requirements. That a symposium is happening at all is a sign that this effort is at least on the radar for all involved.

There are defined collaborative topics at hand on in the agenda. Some of these include sharing educational materials, discussing previous collaborative efforts (such as a project to contribute to ongoing consistent hypertensive therapy), and ideas for future meetings. We’re also grateful to have a website to offer to the group and to see what sort of feedback we get. The potential for real solid groundwork to be laid towards ongoing efforts is even more exciting than the certain knowledge exchange that will happen.

Indeed, other linkages have already started forming between groups, as we work with our UMass partners on developing a protocol to do a chart review and determine what disease burden is addressed by the short term trips. We’re hoping the website will at least get the approval of our partners tomorrow and be able to move forward in implementing it on a go-forward basis. Things are definitely afoot.

At the same time, we’re also branching out and bringing our collaborative message to the world. Dr. Henry Lin, one of our officers, led a well-received discussion at the Talk Change conference at McMaster University a couple of weeks ago. I myself have brought this message informally to the World Medical Association’s meeting in Bangkok and will be bringing it more formally (through research with co-investigators on global health careers and workforce issues) to the American Public Health Association Meeting in San Francisco. If you’re attending, stop in, say hi, learn about the research we’re doing with our partners:

Finally, we’re thrilled by the number of volunteers who have signed on with us recently, both for work at home as well as for the upcoming trip. There’s just so much that’s been on the go, which is why the blog posts have fallen a bit to the wayside. If you are able to donate, please visit – and for those who need a proper tax receipt, email for a different set of instructions.

Together, we can make a difference. The key being “together.”

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