"Not Only the Patient": An Interview with Dr. Nomi

We sat down with Dr. Nomi, a 5 year veteran of the clinic at Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI), our Indonesian partner organization. She recently left ASRI to return home and continue her studies, with the goal of becoming a radiologist. But before she moved on, Dr. Nomi shared insights from her experience treating patients and transforming lives at ASRI.

Q: Can you share some of the things you’ve learned?
Dr. Nomi:  Here, I learned to treat not only the patient, but the family. Because the patients sometimes aren’t the only one who need to be taken care of.  I learned to not just see the patient as a patient, but as a human – as someone who lives with their family and their environment. [I learned] to see the whole web of connections with that patient, their environment, and their condition.

Dr. Nomi | Photo: Stephanie Gee

Also, I’ve learned, for example, not to be afraid to tell to the truth to patients. In Indonesia, it is common for doctors to want to avoid breaking bad news…and sometimes doctors are not really open to the patient. Sometimes we see patients who already went to another hospital or another clinic and they didn’t get any information about their disease! Here they do. Breaking the bad news and telling the patient the truth is something that I learned here.

One man knew he had cataracts, but he didn’t know what cataracts were – after he came from the hospital in Ketapang, he came to us asking for glasses. And then we said," Sir, did you know you have cataracts?” and he said, “Yes.” So we asked, “Do you know what cataracts are?” and he said, “No.” And I felt a little bit sorry for him because he could have saved his money by coming directly to us [and not buying glasses] so I started explaining to him and his family about cataracts and that there’s no way glasses can fix the problem. Cataracts are treatable, of course, but he felt that understanding more about the disease helped him feel at ease too.

Q: What are some of the biggest changes you have seen during your time at ASRI?
Dr. Nomi: Over the 5 years that I've been practicing medicine a ASRI, we moved from a small house to a big building!  Also of course we just recently we welcomed a new Executive Director.  The other major change is the Indonesian government universal healthcare system [called BPJS].  As we grow, more patients are able to be seen through this health care system.  This is a major way for us to become self-sustaining and even to reach more patients.

Q: How have the communities around Sukadana changed in relationship to ASRI?
Dr. Nomi: One big change is their attitude about saving the rain forest! Now when we travel to different villages and engage with communities through radical listening, they ask to get seedlings so they can do reforestation in their area too.  They have started to understand the importance of the forest. Also, when we go shopping in Sukadana we always bring re-useable bags instead of plastic bags. Now other people in Sukadana are following our example. That’s what the shopkeeper told us!  Recently we sent out a survey for communities we work with, asking about ASRI's impact on their lives.  When we get the responses back, I'll have a better answer!

Q: What is your favorite memory of ASRI?
Dr. Nomi: I cannot pick because I love all of them - there have been some very incredible moments for me. Visiting Gunung Palung, biking everywhere...I will not do that in my hometown! [crying]. So many precious moments with all of the staff.

Q: How would you describe ASRI in one word?
Dr. Nomi: Family


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