Dr. George Meyer gained his first experience practicing medicine internationally as a member of the U.S. Air Force. He served in Thailand, Japan, and Germany. Through these experiences, he and his wife, Lynn Meyer, RN, realized their shared love for traveling and living abroad. However, it was only after his time in the Air Force that Dr.Meyer began cultivating his impressive resume of international volunteer work, with a trip to Haiti to visit a hospital run by a friend.
“I think that is the thing that bit me for volunteering,” he recalls.
Soon after, he and his wife traveled to St. Lucia on their first HVO assignment, where an out-of-season hurricane made for a memorable experience. The storm knocked out the water and electricity, and Dr. Meyer still remembers the difficulty of transporting a patient in dire need of surgery to another facility when all the roads were closed and there was no helicopter available. Ultimately, the patient survived and Dr. Meyer went on to volunteer again in St. Lucia, as well as Peru, Cambodia, Uganda, and Bhutan. Still, it was that first trip that inspired the advice Dr. Meyer offers to first time volunteers today: “Be flexible.”
This is not the only lesson Dr.Meyer has learned through his numerous overseas assignments. He has also learned the value of beginning with simple, low-cost interventions—such as a thorough physical examination—before moving on to high-cost diagnostic tests. Although the technology to perform such tests is available in many of the countries where Dr. Meyer has served, the cost is prohibitive. Dr. Meyer has observed patients collecting money from their friends, families, and neighbors to afford the cost of an ultrasound or similar procedure. Not only has this reinforced the importance of ruling out as many diagnoses as possible before turning to high-cost tests, but Dr. Meyer says, “It underlines the need for universal health insurance and universal health access.”
Dr. Meyer’s passion for improving health care access through volunteerism likely fueled his efforts to support and expand HVO’s internal medicine program. He has done this by serving in multiple leadership roles within HVO, and by sharing his volunteer experiences with fellow members of the American College of Physicians (ACP), which sponsors HVO’s internal medicine program. Dr. Meyer received the 2018 HVO Golden Apple Award in recognition of these efforts.
Although he is eager to cultivate the next generation of internal medicine volunteers, Dr. Meyer remains committed to HVO’s education-based model. He is careful to emphasize this aspect of his service when speaking with his colleagues and those in-training during the ACP Annual Meeting.
“What’s impressive to me is the number of medical students who come to the volunteer luncheon and want to be involved, and we tell them when you become faculty we really want to talk to you, but we don’t use medical students because we teach.”
Do you know an HVO volunteer who, like Dr. Meyer, has made an exceptional contribution to HVO’s mission? Nominate them today for the 2019 HVO Golden Apple Award! Nominations are due February 22, 2019. Learn more about the other 2018 Golden Apple honorees by visiting the “Health Worker Story” category to find blog posts profiling other award recipients!