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My first week at ASRI was an orientation: seeing the programs in action, putting faces to names, and creating connections with the community. My first week also marked a tough transition for the ASRI staff: it was Dr. Vina’s last week, after 3 years at ASRI, the last one as head of clinic. Despite her departure, things seemed to be going business as usual, the Clinic bustling as it is most days, with conservation education in the waiting room, volunteers crammed around the table in the back, and patients moving in and out. Even on the toughest day, when there were two suspected cases of tuberculosis, Dr. Vina was steadfast, working with the team to figure out how to best help the patients. It was only when I found her stealing a moment to take a breath did she tell me, “I’m trying not to think about the fact that I’m leaving.”
Vina’s journey to ASRI began 3 years ago, when she arrived to complete a year of rural medical service. Vina is originally from Garut, a small town in West Java and attended medical school at Maranatha, where she met Dr. Ronald, who previously worked at the ASRI Clinic. After completing medical school, Vina spent a year working at a clinic in her hometown, when one day she received a message from Dr. Ron telling her about a vacancy at the ASRI Clinic. Vina hoped to eventually complete her residency to become a specialist, and a year of service in rural medicine is a requirement for completing medical residency in Indonesia. It was the perfect opportunity. She went online and researched ASRI to learn about the program, “I was so amazed with ASRI and by Dr. Kinari – a foreigner from Yale who dedicated her life to help Indonesian people.”
Vina successfully applied for a one-year contract with ASRI. Soon one year turned to two, two years to three, and somewhere in the middle she became the Head of Clinic. In 2014, she was even able to complete a fellowship with Yale and Stanford, funded and made possible by Health In Harmony donors. As soon as she returned, she found herself using the training from the fellowship during her daily rounds at the ASRI Clinic.
Her colleagues and those who had the opportunity to work with her appreciate her skill and leadership. Dr. Christina Gomez-Mira, a volunteer medical resident who was on-site for the last month reflected,
In addition to training opportunities, Vina valued the lessons she learned from fellow colleagues, medical volunteers, and Dr. Kinari, who all changed her perspective on medicine, “Our facilities here are very limited and we don’t have specialists, so we are pushed to do everything we can to help the patient. The attitude here is that we give our full effort to help the patient. Before working at ASRI, if I had a little bit of difficulty I would refer the patient without thinking about whether they could afford to go. Now I don’t only think about their disease but I also think about their economic and social situation. It’s more holistic.”
In addition to expanding her medical knowledge, Vina also had a crash course in conservation. Prior to working at ASRI, she was aware of the issues around climate change, but didn’t feel a need to do anything more than conserve water or reduce her waste. She was able to learn about conservation from the staff and began to understand the importance of this model,
After working at ASRI, Vina will return to work in the clinic in her hometown and begin applying to medical residency programs. She hopes to become a specialist in emergency medicine and is forever changed because of her time at the Clinic, “ASRI has changed my perspective about almost everything. It’s changed my life because ASRI has taught me how to live for others.”
On Friday night, the staff and their families gathered for Vina’s goodbye dinner on Pak Mifta’s massive belian wood porch. As 70 of us feasted on rice, tempeh, and sambal, they surprised Vina with a sweet video of members of the staff singing, dancing, and saying goodbye. The ASRI Kids stepped on the stage to sing “Sudah Lah”, a song to remind Vina that the ASRI community will always be by her side. Then came the speeches. While I myself don’t speak Indonesian, I found that I didn’t need to. From every person who stood to speak about Vina, it was clear from the tears in their eyes and the number of times they repeated “terima kasih” (thank you), that they valued Vina as a colleague, mentor, and a friend. As the evening began to wind down, everyone took their turn to give Vina one last hug before retreating home. I made a stop at the Clinic, where I found Dr. Nomi, who will be succeeding Vina as the Head of Clinic. I went to check on her, noticing that she was still wiping tears away and she said, “We live in a small community here. We are more than just colleagues, she is like my sister.”
As I biked home, I felt lucky to have had the opportunity to be on-site for Vina’s last week. From her leadership in the Clinic, I had no doubt in my mind that she has left behind a very capable team. And more than anything it showed me that ASRI is more than a group of professionals working in the small town of Sukadana, it is like Vina said, “They are my family.”