“The Doctor’s Art” is a weekly podcast that explores what makes medicine meaningful, featuring profiles and stories of clinicians, patients, educators, leaders, and others working in healthcare. Listen and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Amazon, Google, Stitcher and Podchaser.
When it comes to medical humanitarianism, there is no bigger name than Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Médecins Sans Frontières in English. MSF is renowned for its work in regions affected by armed conflict, endemic diseases and natural disasters.
In this episode, we are joined by Christos Christou, MD, a Greek surgeon who has served as MSF International President since 2019. As a field doctor, he has worked in South Sudan, Iraq, Cameroon and various other areas of conflict.
During the conversation, Christou takes Henry Bair and Tyler Johnson, MD, into the trenches of his medical work caring for some of the world’s most vulnerable people, shares how he finds meaning and hope in the midst of suffering human. , and discusses the challenges of global health today.
In this episode you will hear about:
- 2:28 How Christou’s self-proclaimed “rustic” childhood values led him to medicine
- 3:27 How Christou’s time in college shaped his life philosophy
- 5:59 The history and mission of MSF/Médecins Sans Frontières
- 8:13 What the practice of medicine looks like in regions affected by armed conflict and natural disasters
- 10:42 Christou’s journey at MSF, from when he first heard about it to becoming its chief
- 13:41 Lessons learned about finding meaning in medicine in some of the most resource-constrained settings
- 16:19 Christou’s stories inspiring hope in patients, even during incredibly difficult times
- 19:54 A discussion of the dangers faced by clinicians working with MSF
- 23:11 The importance of bearing witness to suffering by giving voice to vulnerable patients
- 26:25 A discussion of the main threats to global health today: climate change, epidemics and war
- 30:00 Tips for new clinicians who want to tackle global health issues
Here is a partial transcription (errors of note are possible):
bay: Christos, thank you so much for taking the time to join us, and welcome to the show.
Christu: Thank you for hosting me.
bay: We are thrilled to have you with us as our first non-US based clinician. And who better than yourself to talk about international medicine? I’ve heard of MSF since I was a child, and growing up in Taiwan, I always had this idea of MSF as that ultimate symbol of great love for humanity and personal sacrifice. Before discussing what MSF does and how you got involved, can you tell us what first attracted you to a medical career?
Christu: Well, I always wanted to be a doctor. I always wanted to become someone who could help others. And if I look at my family history, my father was a mathematician, my mother was a seamstress. But they both came from very poor families. And for them, what mattered more than money or success was getting out of this misery by helping others and also by acquiring knowledge, by studying. And that’s what they also taught me. I must say now that it was a way for me to get out of it, and medicine was a very good option. And that’s how I started. I tried hard and joined college in the late 90s.
bay: Looking back, what were some of the most defining decisions and life experiences that shaped the arc of your work?
Christu: It was those years in college and especially those years in lecture halls, trying to figure out my decision to learn about medical ethics, but also looking at societies on the outside, how to best use what we study here, how we can help others, how we can help all of society prosper. Because it’s not just about helping people and solving their own problems, their health problems. So those were pretty defining moments for me.
The interaction I had with other colleagues of mine, medical students, students from other faculties, it was a great, great university there. And we could see that we will all go out one day in our society. We want to contribute and we want to do so by complementing each other. And these are memories that always help me remember why we are here. Of course, in the last years of my medical school, we were doing the practices in our hospitals and even just taking a patient’s blood pressure was such a feeling. The very first days of my career. I’ll never forget how people always look up to you when you’re there to hold their hand and make them feel better, that, yes, we’re here to help. And I think that has always been a moment that can never fail in your life and in your memories.
For the full transcript, visit The art of the doctor.
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