To Whom Much Is Given

Dr. Ronald Natawidjaja, one of the doctors who has served at ASRI since 2012, was recently accepted into his residency in general surgery, which will begin in January. We are so excited to offer heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to Dr. Ron!

Dr. Lori Chow joined Health In Harmony's March 2014 Journey to Borneo where, after meeting Dr. Ron virtually one year prior, she met him in person. Keep reading to learn how their special partnership is changing their futures and the future of ASRI.

Dr. Ron and Dr. Lori finally meet! Photo by Michelle Bussard

Dr. Ron and Dr. Lori finally meet! Photo by Michelle Bussard

MDB: How did you first connect with Dr. Ronald?

Dr. Lori: In March 2013 Kinari sent me an email. She asked if I'd ever consider sponsoring a surgical residency knowing I'd done so before for a doctor in Africa. Literally the same day as I got that email, maybe 20 minutes before, I received an unexpected check for $19,000 (almost exactly the cost for a 5 year surgical residency)! It was literally a gift from heaven."

Years prior, Dr. Lori had joined a class action suit related to taxes paid during her own residency. The result was restitution with interest. "Clearly this $19,000 is meant to go to Indonesia," she thought, and it was a "done deal" after a conversation with her husband.

Dr. Lori: Kinari introduced me to Dr. Ron, and, after thinking about it, everything fell into place over the last year for me to be here to meet him.

MDB: Dr. Ron, how did you know you wanted to do surgery?

Dr. Ron: I saw ASRI patients that needed surgery, but we had to refer them elsewhere for care, because we didn't have the capacity. Many of these cases are simple surgical procedures. But many of those patients don't have the money for transportation to get the care they need. I want to be able to take care of them too. When I finish my residency, I am committed to returning to ASRI and providing surgery care.

MDB: What have been the highlights of your time together on this trip?

Dr. Ron: Just getting to know each other face-to-face has been terrific and doing some minor surgical procedures together side-by-side. I've learned a lot already from Lori about developing basic core competencies and good technique.

ASRI staff and Dr. Lori at the suturing workshop in the clinic. Photo: Michelle Bussard

ASRI staff and Dr. Lori at the suturing workshop in the clinic. Photo: Michelle Bussard

Dr. Lori: Dr. Ron had the idea to do a suturing class for the physicians and then the nurses and dentists wanted to be involved too. So we all sat down together to learn with sutures that had been given to ASRI. We all laughed because the sutures had expired in 1976, but they still make for fine teaching tools along with kitchen towels to simulate skin. Teaching was fun even though I'm not a natural teacher in my day-to-day work. It was great to break something down that I don't think a lot about these days. Having Dr. Karin (another participant in the 2014 trip) there was good because we prompted each other on a number of teaching points plus having an extra pair of hands to show technique was great.

MDB: Ron, how was it for you?

Dr. Ron: It was so great because this is how we develop sustainability of the program, by passing on learning and then doing.

Lori chimes in, " We have a saying in the states: see one, do one, teach one."

"Yes, that's why," Ron said, "one of the principles of ASRI is to share and learn from each other and promote transfer of knowledge."

During the two days in Bali, Dr. Ron and Dr. Lori did a site visit to Sanglah Hospital outside of Denpasar, where Dr. Ronald was applying to do his residency.

MDB: What was going to Sanglah like?

Dr. Lori: For me it was a flash back to 20 years ago to my own residency. We also learned that Sanglah is certified by The Joint Commission International, which in the US is the standard all US hospitals meet. So that tells us that Sanglah Hospital must meet the same requirements as I have to meet at my own hospital, so that feels really good.

Dr. Ron: Knowing directly is always better, and I feel like my hopes were met to see a little bit of what my future might look like. I never imagined I'd be here with Dr. Lori and that I am, is amazing.

Dr. Lori: and now that I've been here, when Dr. Ron is talking about something involving the hospital or surgery, I have some sense of where he is. It's really great.

Dr. Ron joins a small group of ASRI's Indonesian doctors who through their hopes, dreams, desires and determined work are increasingly able to access a worldwide global health network. With Dr. Lori's sponsorship, Dr. Ron is able to access that same portal as have Drs. Nur and Vina, bringing a great storehouse of knowledge back to ASRI. I asked Dr. Lori her thoughts on being "a portal."

Dr. Ron and Dr. Lori work on suture together in the ASRI Clinic. Photo: Michelle Bussard

Dr. Ron and Dr. Lori work on suture together in the ASRI Clinic.                      Photo: Michelle Bussard

Dr. Lori: The learning goes both ways! It's amazing the work ASRI is doing in the constrained space and with limited resources. In the US, we've largely moved away from the art of medicine because we can get instant answers out of CT scans; and here, without radiology as an option, the art of medicine is alive and well, as is the challenge to be a little more thorough and hands-on. I'd never seen typhoid for example, but our first patient of my first day presented that way, and I learned how a team diagnoses in the absence of all the equipment and tests we've come to rely on in western medicine. So, I look forward to getting random emails from Dr. Ron about things he hasn't seen before or would like advice on and I will absolutely tap my network of docs to find answers to his questions if I don't have them.

MDB: What does it mean to you two to spend time together?

Dr. Lori: This time together is the foundation of a lifelong bond and relationship. Seeing Ron accelerated and deepened our bond in a way that only meeting face to face can do. Now, I know Ron's life and have the key dates of his residency application in my phone and feel like I can celebrate life with him. It's exciting to have this encouragement.

Dr. Ron: I think we have like a heart connection, and I have a friend and mentor for life. This is like an ASRI principle about treating people like our own family -- this is the source of my happiness now.

MDB: What are your hopes for future?

Dr. Lori: I hope Ron gets in the first cycle, recognizing it might not happen. One of my hopes is that ASRI has grown enough to accept the skill set he'll bring in when he is a surgeon, and today that capacity is not there. And I'm hopeful that even with all the demands of life, I will come back and do some surgeries with Ron. Maybe even find a way to work side-by-side in an OR in the states.

Dr. Ron: One of my dreams is to work together with Lori at ASRI and to meet her family. If this is a connection to learning and teaching, then hopefully when I am a surgeon, I can pass the knowledge on with my Indonesian and American colleagues. I keep thinking that this is like a fountain, like a flow, just giving to others is how we continue this life. Hopefully I have a chance to do it like what Lori has done for me...that's how we continue this life, by giving to others.

Does this story inspire you to connect with ASRI?

  • Come with us in June 2015 on the 2nd annual Friendship Tour to ASRI
  • Email me at to talk about how you can sponsor the education and training of ASRI doctors
  • Ron has committed five years to ASRI after residency. Donate today to make sure he returns to a Community Hospital and Training Center where he can perform surgery!



About Michelle Bussard | View all posts by Michelle Bussard

Michelle is the Executive Director at Health In Harmony, based in Portland, OR.