Passion to Heal

Q&A with Amy Spizuoco, Medical Volunteer Trip participant


Passion to Heal, an initiative of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, gives dermatologists and dermatology practitioners the opportunity to help transform health care for thousands of people in WE Villages communities. Taking place in Kenya and India, each fully funded trip is run by ME to WE, giving American practitioners the chance to treat and educate community members, and train local clinicians to create sustainable health care solutions. We sat down with dermatologist and dermatopathologist to find out about her experiences on a 2016 Passion to Heal trip to India.


How did you hear about this trip, and why did you decide to go?

Some friends of mine travel to the Dominican Republic each year to run a dental program, and I had joined them for one day as a dermatologist. I saw over 100 patients and realized how much of a need there was for dermatologists in developing countries. Then, two of my friends had travelled on Passion to Heal trips to Kenya and told me about what an amazing experience it was—so I applied, and ended up going to India!

What was your trip experience like?
The other physicians on the trip were some of the most amazing, kind, generous, thoughtful and wonderful people, and the facilitators were fantastic as well. Ricky, who’s from Udaipur, the city near where we had the medical camp, is the most down-to-earth guy, he could get along with anyone. Two people from the Kenya team, Michelle and Joseph, joined us and they were amazing too. They organized everything and we were so well taken care of.

Personally I saw about 100 patients a day over four days. I think in the end, between all of us we saw more than 2,000 patients. The health camp was really well received in the community we visited and I think we really did make a difference.



Do you have any favourite moments from the trip?

At the end of each day on the trip, we did a highlight of the day, and I’ve tried to bring the idea of doing that home to my family. It just really makes you grateful for the things that you have.

On the trip we met this little girl, Kumla, who was 12 years old. Every day, she would greet us, thank us, ask us questions. Then throughout the day, she would help direct every patient who came in—where to go or what to do. And this girl was never without a smile, it was really awesome.

Were there any moments on the trip that surprised you, or made you really proud?

There are so many! The whole group there was in the medical profession, and there were two specific people there who were pharmaceutical reps. Those two were so open-eyed to be there, probably more than anyone else—they were happy to be there and pitch in wherever they were needed. On the first day, I had been assigned as the dermatology lead for the girls’ group, and was working with a medical assistant. One of the pharmaceutical reps hadn’t been assigned a specific task, but within an hour of being at the medical camp, she realized that so many of these kids and adults had wounds, from things like not wearing shoes because they didn’t have any. So she took it upon herself to set up a wounds clinic—she gathered all the gauze, bandages and antibiotic ointment that was there and set it up. That was a really touching moment, seeing someone who has some health care experience just taking it upon herself to pitch in in any possible way.


What impact has this trip had on you and your work?

Now, when I have days I get stressed out at work—someone comes in angry, or I had to have someone wait 20 minutes—I just take a second and think, you know what, I should just be grateful that I have a job, I have a roof above my head, I have clean water and enough food. When I’m stressed out I just try to remind myself that it’s really not that bad.

A big takeaway I’ve learned is that happiness is not based on success, or money, or what you do every day. It’s really based on the people you surround yourself with and what you make of it, the resources that you have and how you make do with what you have, and your community and family.

Learn more and apply to take part in a Passion to Heal Trip.