Pamela Potter

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Pamela Potter, BHA Board Member

My interest in all things global began early. As an “Army brat,” I moved to Asmara, Ethiopia (now Eritrea) at two months old. I graduated from high school in Hanau, Germany, and we lived in many places in between. I attended Ohio University, where I received a degree in journalism. Currently, I earn my living with this global interest at The Ohio State University as the administrative director of the Health Sciences Center for Global Health and as the assistant director of the Office of Global Health Education in the College of Medicine. Before coming to Ohio State in 2005, I served as the Chief of Staff to the Executive Dean for the College of Medicine at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. There, I helped organize an international conference titledFaith-Based Initiatives and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief,” held at Georgetown in November, 2003. I was also the project manager of the meeting’s proceedings, entitled HIV/AIDS: The Faith Community Responds

What inspires me to get involved with Better Healthcare for Africa

 I have been truly fortunate in my life, and I want to give something back. I also have a wonderfully supportive husband who “gets” me and my passion for global health. Through my work at Ohio State University, I have traveled to Africa, China, and South America as part of a medical team that evaluates global health-training and learning opportunities for medical students and residents. My travels have afforded me some incredible experiences, both inspiring and dispiriting. Here are a few examples of why I am involved with Better Healthcare for Africa. 

Pam100_1465webThis little guy is from a 2004 trip to South Africa. He is in a hospital in Durban suffering from HIV/AIDS, TB, and being an orphan. He is deaf from TB and did not have long to live. I walked in the room and looked at him and he gave me the biggest smile you have ever seen. I realized at that point that I could probably never be as humbled as I felt at that moment. This little boy is all alone in the world, ravaged with disease, can’t hear people and yet, the beauty of his face as he smiled at me took my breath away. When I put a picture to why access to health care matters so much to me—it is his face I see.  His little body is long gone, but his impact on me was huge.

  

Pam_Malawi09_096webWhile in Malawi I went to a village where the people welcomed me so warmly I felt like family. The two women are both wives to the son of the man in the picture. Their days are filled with manual labor just to provide the basics of food and shelter. In addition, the woman on the left (senior wife) teaches mathematics and English at the local school. The woman on the right has given birth to 3 children for the family. I was impressed by how hard everyone works and how much love there was within the family. The village has a more formal dress code than the city, and I am wearing the traditional wrap around my pants.

  

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One of the greatest motivations for being involved in global health is the children. They love to have their pictures taken and they love to play and sing and do all the things that kids love to do. Sometimes they are too sick or too hungry to play and they have very limited access to healthcare. Watching kids be sick and their parents unable to do anything about it is a picture you don’t forget, and you shouldn’t! I remember the dryness and the heat and the isolation of this village.  We rented a truck to get to this site, and the people wanted their picture taken with it, it was probably the first one ever there.

   

Pam_docWebHere I am sitting on the back of a jeep in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana with a safari guide who is 22-years-old and the father of one child. We are discussing AIDS, and I am asking him about his attitude and that of his friends towards the disease. He is telling me that most of them believe that if you are meant to get it you will, so it doesn’t really require you to take precautions because it is in the hands of fate—SCARY. But he says he doesn’t feel that way, and that he is teaching his daughter differently. That leaves me a little hopeful, and I encourage him to spread the facts to his friends.