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Posted By Dr. Kavi Gnanasekaran and Dr. Vanee Balasubramaniam on February 6, 2015

Labels: Dominican Republic , Women’s and Children’s Health, Volunteers

Dr. Vanee Balasubramaniam, Teresa Narvaez and Dr. Kavi Gnanasekaran

As pediatric resident physicians from the University of Rochester, we had the incredible opportunity to teach three Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) courses in the Dominican Republic as Project HOPE volunteers. Approximately 20 percent of neonatal deaths in the Dominican Republic are due to birth asphyxia/trauma. Sadly, this has not changed over the past 13 years.

Upon arriving in the Dominican Republic and meeting with Project HOPE Country Director Teresa Narvaez, we were able to get in contact with the Ministry of Health in Santo Domingo to gain permission and identify areas of need for our courses. We were also able to meet our amazing Spanish interpreter, Sebastian Quevedo, a local Project HOPE volunteer who we were lucky to spend three weeks with and who was indispensable to our ability to both communicate locally and to teach courses.

Training at Encombe Municipal Hospital in Santo Domingo

We then travelled to the province of Monte Plata and met with the hospital directors at Monte Plata Provincial Hospital and Bayaguana Municipal Hospital. We were pleased to learn that every delivery in both hospitals had a trained perinatologist or general pediatrician in attendance. However nursing and other staff were not trained and could benefit most from Helping Babies Breathe. We taught our first course in Bayaguana, which was attended by 15 participants. We then taught courses in Monte Plata and in Encombe Municipal Hospital in Santo Domingo.

We had a truly great experience learning about how to implement an international project, learning how medicine is practiced in the Dominican Republic, and getting the chance to teach HBB courses. In the future there are plenty of ways for volunteers who are interested to get involved. Helping Babies Breathe is a great evidence-based program that is known to work and be sustainable if taught and utilized, and future volunteers could become master trainers and teach courses around the globe. Anyone with a strong idea, passion and perseverance can help make an impact as a Project HOPE volunteer.

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