Wieger Voskuijl is a 38-year old pediatrician. Ellen Bosnak is a 36-year old psychiatrist. Wieger and Ellen are married; they live in Weesp, a small town close to Amsterdam, The Netherlands. They both work full-time as medical professionals in Dutch hospitals.
Wieger and Ellen have always dreamed of making real impact in a place where basic medical care is virtually not available. They are going to fulfill that dream. They are moving to Malawi in July, 2012. Ellen and Wieger will live in Malawi (with their 3 children) for 2 years and devote their life to helping Malawians.
Wieger and Ellen will address the dire needs of the country, its people, and its healthcare in three concrete, hands-on ways.
First, they will provide essential basic physical and mental healthcare. There are currently only two trained psychiatrists in Malawi.
Second, they will educate future Malawian medical professionals to lift the standard of care.
Finally, they will participate in-, and guide local clinical research to advance the state of medical knowledge in malnutrition. Malnutrition has been labelled a worldwide problem by the World Health Organization (WHO). Tackling malnutrition has been defined as UN Millennium Goal #4.
College of Medicine
Ellen and Wieger will both work as senior lecturers at the Queen Elisabeth Hospital. This is the only academic hospital in Malawi and the biggest referral hospital in the country’s southern region. They will work as medical specialists providing essential pediatric- and mental health care. They will engage in sustainable developmental aid by teaching medical students and future Malawian specialists in Malawi’s College of Medicine. Additionally, Wieger will join pediatric malnutrition research. By trying to unravel the pathophysiology behind malnutrition, he will contribute to bringing closer the 4th WHO Millennium
Goal: reducing childhood mortality (see the OPTIMISM trial document).
The College of Medicine was established in 1991 as a constituent college within the University of Malawi (UNIMA) and is based in Blantyre in the southern region of Malawi. It is the only medical school in Malawi. The College of Medicine has gradually grown from a program with 10-15 students per year and only a handful of Malawian faculty, to a program of 60 students per year with 110 faculty members (approximately two-thirds of which Malawian). To date, the college has graduated over 250 medical doctors of which a substantial and growing number now practice in Malawi.
Wieger’s Mission Statement
“90,000 children come to the Queen Elisabeth Hospital in Blantyre. They are often malnourished and suffer from conditions like meningitis, HIV, Malaria, or severe burns. I will treat 25 children every day. Of those 25 children per day, on average 8 will be admitted to hospital. They sometimes have to share beds. Many will die within a few days. While I work on the children’s ward I—together with 9 colleagues—will assist and train 40 medical students and 30 Clinical Officers. (Clinical Officers follow a short medical training and staff local hospitals throughout the country.) In addition, I hope to train 5 new Malawian pediatricians every year. Currently there are only 15 pediatricians in all of Malawi. Finally, I will join my Malawian colleagues in their efforts to research malnutrition. This is a major global problem that results in the death of 8,000 children (!) every day.”
Ellen’s Mission Statement
“Around one million Malawians suffer from a severe mental illness such as acute depression, mania, psychosis, or addiction. This is frequently life threatening due to the increased risk of diseases such as HIV or tuberculosis. To make matters worse, psychiatric patients are often cast out from their community and commit suicide as a result. For these patients—all one million of them— there are 2 psychiatrists. I will be able to diagnose and treat around 75 patients per week. That’s 3500 per year. In effect, it doubles the number of patients that can be treated. Note that this still leaves around 99% of all psychiatric patients untreated. It is thus critically important that I also focus on training at least three medical interns as psychiatrists over the course of these two years. That would almost triple the amount of available psychiatric care in Malawi.”
Ellen and Wieger do not have enough money to fund this mission. Even after depleting their entire personal savings, they still have a significant hole in their budget. Please refer to the Budget/Legal page for details about the fundraising effort.
Help Malawi. Please help Wieger and Ellen by donating today.