Dr. Allison Diamant (left) with Samburu warriors at a makeshift clinic on the outskirts of the Kenyan village of Wamba. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Allison Diamant
Allison Diamant, MD, completed her residency in internal medicine at UCLA in 1995. Currently, she is associate professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Dr. Diamant has strong research and clinical interests in eliminating disparities in access to and receipt of healthcare to ultimately improve health. She studies access and quality of care for underserved and vulnerable populations. She also evaluates programs for low-income and uninsured populations, including breast-cancer care, racial and ethnic disparities and the effect of sexual orientation on access to quality of care as well as health status. In addition, Dr. Diamant is a practicing primary-care physician.
I first traveled to Kenya in 1987, after completing a Peace Corps assignment in Botswana. In December 2011, I had the opportunity to return as a member of a volunteer team of American and Kenyan physicians and nurses organized by Medical Missions Kenya (MMK) and Hunger Relief. For two weeks, we traveled to rural areas north of Nairobi and provided basic healthcare services to underserved communities.
My favorite parts of our trip were traveling to the villages of Gaitheri and Wamba, where we provided care to all comers, first seeing patients in the remnants of a stone church and then in a school beyond the outskirts of the village. Accessing healthcare in rural Kenya is always a challenge and even more so during the doctors' strike at the time. Clinical care was a collage of the singsong of different languages, the pain of musculoskeletal aches from long hours and years of working, simple remedies for colds and allergies and more-severe diagnoses and treatments.
In addition to Partners in Hope/EQUIP, I continue working with my CITW colleagues. We have established a nutrition program in a rural community in northern Malawi. Two major program components have been initiated: a communal garden for community education and shared cultivation of crops for the local villages and family gardens for specific guardians and caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children and the neediest families. Since the inception of this program, the nutrition gardens have helped more than 60 families and several hundred children. In the coming year, it is expanding to include school-based nutrition education.
The challenges in Malawi are endless. However, I am very lucky to be working with people who are making inroads.