2012 BDP Report

Reports from BDP Leaders and Trainees

By: Rick Astone, PT

The 2012 graduating class. Rick Astone is seated on the right. Bjorn Nilson seated in the middle. Jon Ulm, pastor is seated on the left.

In March 2012, the Barefoot Doctors Training School graduated twenty-six students. They completed 540 hours of classroom time over the last three years, besides many hours of experience in the field. Collectively, these twenty-six student Barefoot Doctors saw 3383 patents in 2011 alone!  In their logbooks they had listed the diagnoses and treatments given for the patients they saw. This data was extremely helpful in tailoring the training to their specific needs and medical issues for their regions. Malaria was the most commonly treated condition, with 473 cases. In addition, they treated intestinal worms, gastrointestinal problems, and skin diseases.

Part of the course work in 2012 included CHE (Community Health Education) training for the first time. CHE is a well-established organization with proven results in the field of community health. CHE expanded the Barefoot Doctor Program’s heavy emphasis on disease prevention and health education.

In 2012, and with a follow up course in 2013, the Barefoot Doctors received dental training from mPower Approach (mpowerapproach.org) a support ministry dedicated to training indigenous believers in dental, vision, and medical care to empower them to more effectively share the Gospel. mPower holds high standards to certify technicians from their courses. In order to fulfill all of the dental requirements, we conducted a training course in Tanguyii, Burma in March 2013. Eleven of Barefoot Doctors from the 2012 graduating class received full certification in dental extraction and filling.

Our teaching methods in the Barefoot Doctors Program include creative, but simple techniques: using images and visual aids, felt boards, teaching cubes, case studies, student presentations, ARS (audience response system), re-enactments, actual patient’s stories, interactive group activities, the students drawing pictures/calendars/graphs, and Western methods of testing and lectures. Besides treating patients, our goal is to empower the Barefoot Doctor students to teach their fellow villagers. By teaching others, their collective effect in a village and statewide is magnified exponentially. This can equate to significant health improvement in a region and throughout Burma.

Bjorn Nilson MD, MPH, FAAP, AAHIVM, Global Health Specialist, UCSF

Science and religion are the two greatest forces directing the behavior of humanity. The creative and ethical alliance of these two influences is our best hope for altering the evils of human poverty, ignorance, and disease and degradation of the Earthʼs biosphere. Good scientific education and faith based support have come together at Frontier Labourers for Christ (FLC) to train twenty-six Christian village health workers from seven disenfranchised Burmese hill tribes to learn practical health care and sound Christian principles to share with their people.

Our medical instruction takes place at FLC’s, Kalnin Leadership Center, a modern, comfortable training center in rural Northern Thailand. The students participate in morning devotional services and are provided with healthy traditional meals, simple but comfortable housing, recreation facilities and a spacious, well equipped classroom. As medical course director, I am supported by a number of volunteer physicians, nurses, dentists, and Rick Astone, an excellent full-time on-site course administrator. The other instructors have come not only from the US, but Thailand, Burma, and China.

The combination of Christian humility, caring, and conscientiousness of the Barefoot Doctors, with the appropriate use of modern technology (provided by the backing of our Western churches and supporters), allows us all to learn how to diagnose and cure indigenous diseases of Southeast Asia.

All too often religion and science are depicted as opposing forces.  We are all aware that both can be the source of evil, but it seems clear to me that people of faith and people of science must work together if we are to navigate the precarious shoals of our common future.

For stories from the Barefoot Doctors trainees, see the 2012 Frontier Messenger.