Health care for all

L to R: Dr. Harshitha Gunawardena, Dr. Christine Gibson and Dr. Christina Disipio. The three Calgary physicians gather for a photo, after completing a “Sensitizing Specialists to Family Medicine” workshop in Ethiopia.

Calgary physician, Dr. Christine Gibson’s Global Familymed Foundation helps build family medicine capacity where it’s needed most.

We know that family medicine is key to improving the health of entire communities, and how crucial it is that we build family medicine capacity where it’s needed most…

As the Program Director for Global Health Enhanced Skills in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Calgary, Dr. Christine Gibson devotes herself to helping medical students understand family medicine on a global scale.

“We know that family medicine is key to improving the health of entire communities,” she explains, “and how crucial it is that we build family medicine capacity where it’s needed most…” in under-privileged and health care-under-served countries.

Dr. Gibson’s commitment to family medicine is so strong that she created a foundation dedicated to helping increase family medicine training in countries where primary health care is limited. Originally started in 2011, the Global Familymed Foundation was re-named and re-launched in January 2015, with an even greater focus on expanding family medicine capacity.

“It was a chance to define exactly what we want to do and how we want to do it,” says Dr. Gibson. “The first time around, I had a bunch of my physician friends take on portfolios and they did a great job, but it was too much for them to maintain. Now, we have fewer physicians doing the board work, but more physicians involved in the projects.”

Those projects are occurring all over the world, including recently in Ethiopia, Myanmar, Nepal and Uganda.

As part of her work with the foundation, Dr. Gibson spends two-to-three months of the year travelling, primarily as an academic consultant helping medical schools expand their family medicine curriculum and programming.

“I cover all my own costs and don’t get paid for anything, unless I’m working on one of the University of Calgary projects. Even though I’m paying out-of-pocket for flights and expenses, plus taking time away from my work here, I really enjoy it and I believe in it.”

Dr. Gibson was in Nepal on April 25, 2015, working with a medical school, when the devastating earthquake hit. It’s an experience she describes as humbling.

“As a physician,” says Dr. Gibson, “you think you can help in any situation. But I’m not an emergency doctor or a surgeon and I don’t speak the language, so it was a strange feeling of being somewhat useless. It was a bit of an existential crisis, actually.” From those initial, unfamiliar and unsettling feelings of frustration and inadequacy, Dr. Gibson evolved her perspective into a powerful life lesson that she shares, through her TEDTalk: Journey from Hero to Humility.”

A Walk in Their Shoes – Fundraiser Family Fun 5K walk/run
Hosted by the Global Familymed Foundation
When: May 15, 2016
Where: Glenmore Park, Calgary
Register at: www.runningroom.com
All funds raised by the event will support the work of the foundation.

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