“Nothing is more rewarding than observing the progress and accomplishments of people that you helped mentor,” notes Dr. Mark Duster, a pediatric cardiologist and volunteer with Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO).
HVO is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that recruits expert volunteers like Dr. Duster to provide education, training and professional mentorship to health workers in resource-scarce countries. By strengthening the health workforce, HVO volunteers improve patient care and help to ensure that all people can access quality care when they need it most.
At HVO’s project in partnership with Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) in Siem Reap, Cambodia, Dr. Duster has served as mentor to a physician-in-training to become a pediatric cardiologist, in addition to bringing hands-on education opportunities to AHC staff.
“I have been working with this particular physician for two years now,” he explains, “I have watched his knowledge base for pediatric cardiology improve significantly…and his decision-making process improve… I have watched this young man progress in his career and that has been very, very fulfilling.”
These experiences have led Dr. Duster to conclude that part of his role is not only to offer clinical training and education, but also to provide information and support that fosters future leaders.
“Working as a volunteer gives me a chance to continue to contribute in a most meaningful manner; helping the next generation move into positions of leadership.”
Dr. Duster has a deep and personal understanding of the long-term impact of partnerships between volunteers and their overseas colleagues. He believes volunteers “offer a vision of the possible” to their colleagues, providing support and inspiration. He also believes that his overseas colleagues expand his global health perspective, and contribute to his own personal and professional development.
“The challenge of treating large numbers of patients with extremely complex conditions is truly intellectually stimulating,” he says. He adds that he has benefitted from “learning how my colleagues in a resource-challenged environment meet these challenges, in sometimes very unique ways.”
The exchange of information that Dr. Duster experiences as a volunteer is an essential component of HVO’s work to improve global health. The collaborations between HVO volunteers and overseas partners helps ensure the availability of quality health care for children in low-resource settings around the world.
“This program is training the future leaders in pediatrics for Cambodian children,” notes Dr. Duster. “I have been able to observe real progress in the education and the practice of medicine [among] my Cambodian colleagues.”