Hi! My name is Dr. Camille Bentley, co-founder of Hands For Health Foundation.
Thank you for visiting the Hands for Health Foundation website and your support on our mission to provide health care access and medical supplies to those people living in the developing world.
I have been traveling for over 20 years providing healthcare to the indigenous and poor of Central and South America, Kenya and Nepal in educational, all volunteer capacities working with medical students, health care providers and community volunteers from across the US.
The Hands for Health experience has truly molded me as a physician, educator and most importantly as a human being.
As a family practice/urgent care physician -
I work in a low income area of Denver, Colorado where our patients either are on Medicaid, Medicare or pay cash for their visits. Most of these patients lack any continuity of care, and are only seen for acute or painful conditions that affect their ability to work, if employed or perform daily necessary activities. Most are foreign born, coming from places such as Somalia, Pakistan, Mongolia and Mexico and some do not speak English. They may come in for various conditions or very simple common easy to take care of issues. I enjoy immensely the opportunity I have to help them and educate them about their problem. Over the years I have realized the tremendous impact I make on their daily lives and their outlook on life. As physicians, dealing with the daily stress of medical practice we can easily lose sight of this powerful gift that we worked so hard to attain at the beginning of our careers. My experiences working overseas and living in sometimes extremely austere conditions while there have instilled in me a much better understanding of the all the patients I serve. I can better communicate with them, be appropriately empathetic towards their needs while using skills I have mastered to diagnose and treat their illnesses. While overseas health care providers are able to practice medicine in a purer form, not dictated by insurance companies and the bureaucracy we have here in the US. We are reminded of why we went into medicine in the first place.
As an educator,
I have been able to maintain an overall mission and objectives with each medical outreach I have organized or participated in. I have witnessed firsthand the professional impact of having medical students and residents experience providing health care to the poor and indigent overseas. This overseas experience during the training years broadens the clinical, procedural and cultural skills of these young physicians. They get to test, learn, improve and use their communication, physical exam and procedural skills when working with the patients. Each becomes better aware of their strengths and weaknesses.
They may see illnesses not normally seen in the US, or have to handle diseases in much more advanced stages as compared to here. With the lack of high tech and expensive diagnostic equipment, we are forced to rely on our hands, senses, medical knowledge and past experiences culminating in the use one’s best clinical judgement in order to help others. Everyone must work as part of a team and work with others from difference health care disciples and/or specialties.
Usually at the end of such an experience all are more confident with these skills. Learning more about healthcare systems and the impact of such systems on the health of a population helps everyone better understand the context of the changes occurring in our own healthcare system. The exposure to patients and people overseas and learning how culture, environment, socioeconomic status, etc. affects health, teaches everyone the necessity of a well-rounded cultural understanding. This is translated into providing patient centered care here in the US, something we hear so much about.
As a human being,
I have experienced the profound personal and spiritual impact of these experiences. I am reminded of just how profound when I see the expressions on the faces of the volunteers and the patients on each outreach. I have always referred to these outreach experiences as a “triple win”. As a group of volunteers we get to help others by providing free quality health care to those who really need it, medical students and residents get to hone their skills towards providing patient centered quality health care, and those seasoned health care providers get to share their experiences and teach the younger professionals, all while in the context of practicing medicine in a purer simpler format, one that reminds us why we became doctors in the first place. I have grown to better understand humankind and how regardless of location, race, religion or culture, we are all the same.
We all experience pain and suffering and we all look for that caring smile, touch of a gentle hand, or the strength of a bodily hug to help heal the wounds of poverty, ill health, depression and need. Through the warmth of our smiles, gaze of our eyes and touch of our hands we can heal one another. These human attributes transcend above all material needs and desires, we are connected to others of our own species. I will continue to organize and direct overseas medical outreach experiences for medical students, health care providers and community volunteers as long as I am able.