Doctor Volunteers on Medical Missions in Africa

Group of children smiling

When we think about summer, relaxing at the beach or pool and long sunny days come to mind. But for some, summer is about service. Stanford Children’s Health pediatrician Anita Juvvadi, MD, is one of those people. During the summer months, she organizes medical missions to Africa with residents, fellows, and even teen patients.

For the last several years, Dr. Juvvadi has been actively involved with an Ethiopia-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) that works with displaced children at a refugee camp. Through this organization, she and fellow volunteers provide medical care to refugees who have had to leave their homes and belongings behind.

What started out as an outreach project soon became a passion for Dr. Juvvadi. “When I first got involved, it was with an idea to start giving back but with no idea of where to start. An opportunity to accompany a mission to Ethiopia came up, and I completely fell in love with the people, with the children, with the warmth and the love they have to give. It’s just a fulfilling experience to make a difference in one child’s life for that day,” Dr. Juvvadi said.

“Every time I go, it’s more than just a sense of giving back; it’s enriching for my own soul. … It’s just a lovely, lovely feeling when you go and you feel like, OK, maybe I’m making just a small iota of a difference in this child’s life.”

In addition to providing medical services to the children there, she has partnered with Stanford Global Health to coordinate rotations for other medical professionals in the Stanford Children’s Health network.

“Being part of the Stanford Global Health team has allowed me to expand these medical missions,” Dr. Juvvadi explained. “So now I’m able to also offer it to residents and fellows or medical students from Stanford who want to attend and participate in giving back to the Ethiopian community.”

Dr. Juvvadi credits her volunteer work with giving her a new perspective in her own practice, Juvvadi Pediatrics in Mountain View. “It changed the way I’m practicing right now. It’s given me a sense of what’s important, what’s valued, and how we can share this with the child that’s growing up in the Bay Area who has no idea about these children across the world who have nothing,” she said.

In an effort to share her experience with others, Dr. Juvvadi has brought patients from her own practice, including her own son, to Africa to work alongside her. She hopes that bringing them on the trips will broaden their perspectives.

“The magnitude of those trips is just too much to not share. So perhaps just giving a little bit back to the community gives them a glimpse, a small window, into life elsewhere in the world,” she said.

Anaika Bedi is one of the high school students who have joined Dr. Juvvadi on a medical mission. The idea to go with the Ethiopia Health Aid project came up during an annual checkup with her pediatrician. Bedi was able to travel with Dr. Juvvadi and spent time working in the pharmacy, organizing medicines and surgical equipment, and visiting a refugee camp.

During her trip, Bedi observed surgeries and outpatient visits with Dr. Juvvadi and the local pediatrician. “The surgeries I observed were extremely interesting, as I got to see a different side of medicine,” Bedi said. “I shadowed Dr. Juvvadi … and together we diagnosed several pediatric patients. I learned how to write prescriptions and gained general knowledge about medicine as a whole. Throughout my experience, I felt like I was a part of a team that is making a large impact on the people of Ethiopia.”

Bedi’s experience in Africa cemented her desire to become a doctor herself and opened her eyes to the world around her, she said.

“Before this trip, I was slightly in a bubble; I had not seen true poverty or hardships. This trip has definitely introduced me to the plights of refugees in third-world countries, as well. I am more than certain after this trip that I would like to pursue a career in medicine and use my knowledge to continue helping those in need.”


One Response to “Doctor Volunteers on Medical Missions in Africa”

  1. Jpy Gayle RN

    Thank you for this uplifting post. ‘To give is to receive” My medical mission to the Phillipines enriched my heart mind an soul as well. I believe more people would volunteer hearing and reading posts such as this. The beautiful gleeful faces of the children brings joy and also awareness. Thank you!
    Joy Gayle RN


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