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W. Andrew Harris

Oregon Health & Science University
Purpose Prize Fellow 2011

Harris promotes training doctors and nurses nearing retirement to bring their experience to medical missions in remote areas of the world.

As both a medical professional and an avid traveler, ophthalmologist W. Andrew Harris knew the need for skilled medical care in developing regions of the world. He also knew his colleagues, many of whom were nearing retirement, were devoted to helping others but lacked the training to practice medicine in often difficult circumstances, including limited supplies, inadequate facilities or familiarity with diseases they were unlikely to have treated in the United States.

That’s why in 2008 Harris launched Professionals Training in Global Health, a 10-week course offered at Oregon Health & Science University’s Global Health Center. The program trains boomer-age physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to treat a range of conditions they may encounter as volunteers on overseas medical missions.

The course covers a wide range of topics including infectious disease, tropical medicine, malnutrition, wound care and basic dentistry. Participants get hands-on training in ultrasound, casting fractures, regional block anesthesia, suturing, intubation, breech deliveries and microscopic examination of stool and blood samples. Speakers include local physicians who have served with Doctors Without Borders, Medical Teams International and Mercy Corps.

Like Harris, whose practice focused on cataract surgery, many are specialists decades out of medical school who may need a refresher on primary care. During the course they shadow a Portland-area family medicine or emergency medicine physician, or volunteer at a free clinic under the mentorship of a primary care doctor.

In the past three years, the course’s graduates have served on 32 overseas missions to 18 countries.