On one of my last days in Sukadana, I talked with my friends Dr. Nomi and Dr. Yuli, ASRI’s two newest physicians, about why they chose ASRI and what they like about working in the clinic. Both women are passionate about serving their patients and driven to learn and improve. They were drawn to ASRI as a clinic that meets the standards of care they aim to provide.
Dr. Nomi is from Aceh and attended medical school there, at Syiah Kuala University. She found ASRI on a job search site and became more interested after reading on the website about ASRI’s approach to treating patients and about founder Dr. Kinari’s deep desire to help people in West Kalimantan. Dr. Nomi’s goal is to serve her patients by being the best doctor she can be. She felt that working at ASRI would give her the opportunity to grow into that level of quality.
Dr. Yuli is ASRI’s newest physician. She attended medical school in Jakarta at the Universitas Pelita Harapan then spent more than a year working in clinics in Jakarta and Samarinda. After her mentor, friends with Dr. Hotlin, sent Dr. Yuli information and newsletters from ASRI, she was interested enough in the holistic model of healthcare to apply. After only one month at the clinic, Dr. Yuli already saw that the holistic view of medicine truly means better care for patients.
Starting with the overall model of ASRI as both a healthcare and an environmental organization, Dr. Yuli believes that ASRI’s conservation programs ultimately serve clinic patients. She sees a clear connection between the environment and community health.
“The forests are very important for people because they provide oxygen, keep the environment clean, and keep people healthy,” she said. ASRI’s commitment to protecting the rainforest is simply a part of caring for patients.
The volunteer doctors also encourage the local physicians to focus on cures, Dr. Yuli says, getting at the root of a problem and what is causing it, not simply treating symptoms or what a patient believes is wrong. A patient at ASRI receives full treatment, and Dr. Yuli loves being able to track their progress. The culture at ASRI is to ask patients to return for follow-up visits, and Dr. Yuli can already see the benefits of knowing how her patients respond to treatment.
Dr. Nomi agrees that the culture at ASRI is making her a better doctor. She also emphasizes that ASRI does not treat symptoms, but patients – meaning the doctors look to cure underlying problems, not only manage their manifestations. This method also reduces a patient’s expenses, Dr. Nomi says, because he or she is better next time he or she visits the clinic instead of in need of more expensive treatment each time. The patients notice this quality of care.
“The patients trust us. They want to do what we ask them to do, because it gives them a better life,” Dr. Nomi said. According to her, the essence of being a doctor is constant learning, to keep up with each new and different case that needs treatment.
“If you want to be a doctor, you need to learn until you retire, and at ASRI, you learn everyday,” Dr. Nomi said. At ASRI, she says, no one ever works alone, the local and volunteer physicians are always collaborating and learning from each other, ensuring the best possible care for each patient – Dr. Nomi’s highest priority.
In the nine months she has been at ASRI, Dr. Nomi has taken advantage of all the opportunities that practicing medicine in a limited setting can provide. She notes that other general practitioners will often refer a patient to a specialist, but at ASRI, Dr. Nomi can provide more for the patients and has access to procedures and equipment, like ultrasounds and EKGs that general practitioners in Indonesia don’t often have the opportunity to use or medications and supplies that are difficult to find in Indonesia that US Health In Harmony supporters donate to ASRI.
That night was a perfect illustration of all the elements both Dr. Nomi and Dr. Yuli appreciate about ASRI. I joined the two of them and western doctors Jesse and Krista at the local hotel. I arrived to find them already there, sitting on the dock over the water, drinking fresh-squeezed juice, watching the sunset and engaged in a conversation about gastrointestinal bleeding. As Dr. Jesse quizzed the Indonesian physicians on the appropriate labs to call for, fielded questions about different treatment options, and Dr. Krista chimed in with her post-partum experience, I realized this was a perfect illustration of our earlier conversations. Not only were the four actively learning from each other, they were doing so in an intensely peaceful and beautiful natural environment. As in all elements of ASRI, the two experiences of the medical and the ecological were not separate, but blended.
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