“In Congo during the civil war, we set up an ophthalmology training center in Kinshasa, and it’s still going. People began to think, let’s not destroy our healthcare or our education or other services we need. Instead, let’s try for peace and build on that.”
Water, Women, and Oneness
“We believe water and sanitation are a human right. We recognize that health is not the only outcome of access to water especially for women. Women are educated at a much higher rate if they don’t have to collect water. WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) tries to articulate that our work reaches beyond health into education, human rights, safety and security, and privacy and dignity.”
Dr. Abhay Bang
Act Locally, Impact Globally
“Decisions made in global health that are not grounded in compassion often become inappropriate, insensitive to local needs. We must be sensitive to local people who are the recipients of global healthcare. To be sensitive we need compassion. To be good listeners we need compassion.”
Dr. Gail Davey
“Something that’s shaped my enjoyment and desire to continue working in the field of podoconiosis has been my sense of compassion and social justice. To live justly and show mercy, those are two ideals for many faiths. They certainly speak to me daily, and have informed my work so far.”
Jonathan Rout, CASA
Compassionate Leg Washing
"When washing the legs of patients I need to touch the patient, to have body-to-body contact. Lymphatic Filariasis is not a contagious disease so we wash with our bare hands. Our patients become very emotional and cry when we touch them. They tell us that no one has ever touched their feet in a caring manner; rather, they are usually shunned and kept out of sight due to shame from their families."
Dr. LeAnne Fox
"When I am working with individuals with lymphedema and elephantiasis, I see compassion in global health firsthand. People with swollen legs oftentimes feel isolated and stigmatized by their communities. In addition, it is hard for them to stand, walk, and work. The opportunity to contribute to creating a world where no one will suffer from this disease in the future is very exciting for me."
Dr. Bill Foege
Seeing the Faces
“In epidemiology you are oftentimes dealing with graphs or tables or numbers… so it’s important to be grounded and to see the faces.”
Dr. David Satcher
What Can I Do For Others
“I care about global health because I care about people and because people have cared about me. I would not be here today if it were not for the caring and compassion of other people.”
When you are working in mobile eye clinics, you can experience very difficult situations with individuals that will impact your whole life. For me this happened in March 1987, soon after I moved back to [...]
I care about global health because I care about people and because people have cared about me. I would not be here today if it were not for the caring and compassion of other people.
David Satcher, former Surgeon General
Global health is not just about acknowledging the suffering of others but it is about saying, ‘Well, how much of this suffering is premature or even unnecessary, and what might we do collectively to lessen it?’
Paul Farmer, Partners in Global Health
In epidemiology you are oftentimes dealing with graphs or tables or numbers… so it’s important to be grounded and to see the faces.
Bill Foege, Professor Emeritus, Emory University
Solutions to health problems do not always appear in the same place as the problems themselves, and it may take a global effort to join the two.
Adetokunbo Lucas, Professor, Harvard University
Data from a variety of different sources that show that compassion makes a difference. It makes a difference in the lives of patients and it makes a difference in the lives of the people that provide that care.
Christina Puchalski, Professor, George Washington University
The compassion in global health symposium was a milestone for me – I never thought ASTMH would approve a symposium on such a topic. It’s also been an individual journey as I try to reconnect with my own sense of compassion and motivation for this work. I was gratified by the response to the symposium, and hope that we find ways to advance the conversation.
Ann Varghese, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
I just had to write to express my gratitude for putting together the Compassion symposium at the ASTMH conference. I really hope this will become an annual part of the ASTMH conference… it was exactly what I needed to encourage me in my global health pursuits!!
Francisca Abanyie, Emory University School of Medicine
Global health is deeply rooted in compassion, a fundamental source of inspiration and motivation. Grounded in an awareness of our interconnectedness and a concern with the whole, global health and compassion both seek to build bridges between people who are separated by geography, politics, resources, and other factors. Learn about the impact of compassion on global health.
Compassion is a central motivation for global health, and millions of compassionate acts that are offered each day in primary health care clinics, refugee health units, and public health programs around the world. Global health leaders, practitioners, and students are now bringing compassion into the center of global heath discourse. Contact us to share your story!
Resources and information – including documentaries, videos, books, articles, and more – are available about the emerging role of compassion in global health. Learn about opportunities, events, presentations, retreats, and more to deepen your understanding and practice of compassion and to apply this to your work in global health.