For the first time in her life, a young girl in Mali will mark the passage of a year without seeing the woman who helped bring her into the world.
The girl’s parents made her the namesake of Laura Delaney, PA-C, M.P.A.S., after Delaney helped deliver her during a medical service trip in the West African nation in 2008. Since then, the assistant professor in DMU’s physician assistant program has made an annual trek to the girl’s village with the nonprofit organization Medicine for Mali (MFM). When conflicts between the country’s military and Islamic extremists escalated into a war, however, MFM’s board decided to cancel this year’s service trip.
“It breaks my heart,” says Delaney, an MFM board member. “I’ll miss the thrill of seeing her and how she’s growing up, and it makes me sad we can’t provide the treatment, medications and education we always take.”
That assistance is critical in Mali, among the poorest countries on the planet. Stephen DeVore, D.O.’90, and his wife, Jill DeVore, M.P.H.’08, established Medicine for Mali in 2000 after their daughter, Elise, visited the country on a medical fellowship. Struck by the people’s poverty and health care needs, she asked her father to send medicines and supplies.
Dr. DeVore died on Nov. 11, 2008, but Jill DeVore and MFM volunteers, including faculty and students of DMU, have continued to help the organization provide medical services and public health education, build clean water wells, offer microfinance for small businesses and train teachers.
“We have made a difference,” Delaney says. “We work with their medical community and offer training. We’re just starting to work in the schools to teach things like the importance of hand-washing. Malaria is a big problem, so when people come for immunizations, they get a bed net to keep away mosquitoes that may carry the disease.”
The canceled Mali trip didn’t leave her sitting on her hands global health-wise. Delaney and three DMU physician assistant students spent the first half of February in South Africa, exploring hands-on learning opportunities for students in a public hospital and HIV clinic. She’s also hopeful MFM’s medical service trips will soon resume, knowing the military violence will only make life in Mali more difficult. Delaney is clear: MFM “is in it for the long-term.”
“Dr. DeVore had a great vision,” she adds. “I’m proud to walk in the path that he left us.”