This month marked the first round of patient visits for Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI)'s mobile clinic team in their new truck! The mobile clinic team climbed aboard and headed to a small village called Pangkalan Jihing.  Loaded up with blood pressure monitors, eyeglasses, dental equipment, and everything in between, the new truck was ready for its long ride through the forest.

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Guest blog by Felona Gunawan

Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I never moved to the United States. It was partly to satisfy this curiosity that I decided to go to Sukadana, Indonesia for my rotation as a Johnson and Johnson Global Health Scholar. I was both nervous and excited. Nervous because I was not sure what to expect: will people still be able to understand my elementary level Indonesian? Have the social and political climates changed much from when I moved in 1999? How much can a doctor with Western training that depends so much on technology contribute? Thankfully, a lot of these fears quickly dissipated soon after my arrival in Sukadana. Not necessarily because these challenges were not present, but more so because of the amazing and dedicated staff and community. Moreover, my experience in Sukadana has allowed me to reconnect with the humanitarian aspect of medicine that is often lost in the practice of Western medicine.

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This weekend, the ASRI staff was all hands on deck to help with a BIG transition - moving the clinic into the new hospital building!

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Guest blog by Jessie Kittle

Seven years of advanced and expensive training in the US has prepared me to be an attending in a few months. Particularly in my practice setting, expensive and complex interventions are the norm and sometimes benefit the patient. I’ve recognized throughout the years that the system that shaped me has some serious flaws. Health care access is often disparate, and we spend more time facing the computer than our patients. Futile care at the end of life and over-utilization of expensive interventions are common, and the bankrupting of patients occurs regularly (and beyond the view of doctors who contributed). I have sometimes felt my passion for this version of doctoring wane, and I came to ASRI seeking the holistic ideal of connecting with patients and improving the community with my practice.
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Rural health care in Indonesia is in crisis right now. Consider these statistics: The life expectancy in Indonesia is 67 years old. Only 5% of the population is currently over the age of 65. In addition, approximately a third of children under 5 suffer from stunted growth. Diarrheal disease, HIV/AIDS, cancer, and polio are some of the most common killers among Indonesians.

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Guest blog by Dr. Yuliana Jeng

A couple weeks ago, when I was doing my daily routine work as a doctor in the clinic, I met him. He is Mr. Helmi, our 40 year old patient with a very bad foot infection. I remember him because he left a deep impression on me. How can I forget him? I still can remember the day when he came.

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“Capacity building” is believing in and creating the means to fulfill and express great potential. While it is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, it’s something  to which we and our project partner ASRI are deeply committed.

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Guest blog by Josh Fleming

Josh and Etty pose with ASRI Kids.

Josh and Etty pose with ASRI Kids.

So what is ASRI? I find myself contemplating this question upon arriving back home from my time spent away. Trying to properly convey to myself or furthermore others not having been a witness to the beauty and scope of ASRI, is no simple feat in itself. It is hard to easily define and put into words ASRI’s full magnitude and the breadth of complexities of this intricately designed program, but I wish to be so bold and try to articulate the essence of what I believe ASRI to be in my most humble opinion.

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Wonderful friends, inspiring meetings, and sharing successes

Today is my daughter’s birthday. Just as it did 24 years ago, it is snowing in Washington, DC. Instead of giving my presentation at the Woodrow Wilson Center on the Five Year Survey, the day unfolds quietly and offers a time for reflection on this east coast swing.

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Guest blog by Dr. Abhimanyu "Manu" Uberoi

Extremely eager to embark on a once in a lifetime experience, I was elated when I found out I was accepted to the Yale/Stanford Johnson & Johnson Global Health Scholars Program, and even more excited that I got my first choice: Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI). Once there, I was flabbergasted and able to appreciate what HIH/ASRI  is really about. During the first week, my jaw was nearly on the floor, as I was so impressed with the institution established. The complex, community centered, multifaceted organization with all its projects: the reforestation group, the Forest Guardians, the Goats for Widows project, organic farming, DOTs, and Clinic were all intertwined.

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Guest blog by Hotlin Ompusunggu, DDS and Alexandra Ristow

Photo by Nikki See for Undertold Stories.

Alexandra Ristow, a Yale Medical Student, shares her volunteer experience with the ASRI project in Sukadana, and I reflect on trust.

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Radiant smiles, ears of corn, eye glasses and orangutans: Reflections on Gratitude

See a gallery of photos I took on the trip here:

Crossing the tarmac at Ketapang’s outpost airport, I am momentarily caught in a gulp of sadness. I follow my traveling companions Nichol Simpson (Health In Harmony’s Development Director) and Toni Gorog, Ph.D. (Health In Harmony’s Program Director) on board the 138-passenger Aviastar Airbus to "Fly Safe and Comfort" back to Jakarta where twenty-one hours later and a time zone or two, we’ll reach our homes in Oregon and California where winter awaits. My sadness is not because I’ve gathered up a ring of new friendships I wistfully leave behind, though that has happened, but because I know in the deep well of my heart that I’ve stepped across an invisible threshold and will never be the same again even though I know I don’t completely know how so -- yet.

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Orangutan Mother and Baby

Orangutan Mother and Baby. Photo by Sachi Oshima.

SAVING LIVES AND VITAL HABITAT ONE PRECIOUS STEP AT A TIME

At Health In Harmony, with our partner ASRI, we are forging a model that is measurably changing the face of global health and conservation. How? By saving lives and restoring vision at Klinik ASRI, while simultaneously working side-by-side with and training health care providers, traditional birth attendants, and midwives in exchange for restoring the rain forest, protecting critical orangutan habitat with community-based guardianship, teaching healthy, sustainable organic agricultural methods, and providing goats to widows. And, we are getting ready to build a beautiful community hospital that will serve as a center for conservation education, training, and a foundation for replicating the Health In Harmony model.

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Guest blog by Jessica Crawford

Having heard wonders about ASRI since beginning medical school at Yale in 2006, I am now delighted to be the first American medical student to participate in ASRI on the ground in Sukadana and other small villages around Gunung Palung National Park. Here are some of my reflections from an incredible six weeks in Indonesia.

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