Dr Susanne Leenders

DoctorSusanne Leenders
LocationWestern Province, New Ireland
DateSeptember 2017 - December 2017

It has always been my dream to work as a doctor in a tropical country and Papua New Guinea is the perfect place for it. Not only is it a beautiful, with wonderful hospitality and the most amazing people. It is also an interesting and challenging place when it comes to tropical medicine and global health.

In Papua New Guinea we’ve been seeing diseases that I have only studied, but never seen in real life before. Unfortunately tuberculosis, leprosy, malaria and yaws are diseases of everyday life here.
What I found heartbreaking to see is that non-communicable diseases are on the rise in Papua New Guinea as well, making the country one of those developing countries that have the double burden of disease. On my patrols I would see hypertension, diabetes and COPD a lot, diseases that PNG didn’t have until recently.

It is an amazing experience to work in a team of local healthcare workers and tackle challenges together. Adding to their knowledge by case based or group training is rewarding work. It feels great to make a difference together.

In Western Province we visited villages that sometimes hadn’t seen a doctor for years, referral hospitals are often very far away and require both travel on foot and boat.
When we arrived on our first day of patrol in Kungim at the health centre, there was a women in labour. She had a mal-presentation and obstructed labour. The first referral option would only be in the morning by boat in the daylight and that would be a long time for both mother and baby and complications might have arisen in the meantime. But luckily we arrived at the right moment and as a team we managed to bring a healthy baby to this world. It wasn’t easy, it was a very challenging night, but I will never forget this team effort and the great reward of delivering a baby in these challenging circumstances.