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Thursday, March 12, 2015

March Lunch and Learn: Saving Lives in Deadly Places

With their shared commitments to providing help to those hurt in times of conflict, it should come as no surprise that The Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, or, Doctors Without Borders) also share a history. MSF was established in 1968 during the Nigerian Civil War, by a team of doctors, nurses and clinicians who answered a call for volunteers from the French Red Cross. As they cared for victims of Nigeria’s violent civil conflict, the group decided to establish a corps of humanitarian medical service providers committed to the provision of medical care, without regard for the borders drawn by ideology, nationality, politics or religion. With over a decade of experience working with MSF in sites of conflict and disaster, this month’s Lunch and Learn speaker, Karen Stewart, LCSW, is intimately familiar with the difficulties encountered by medical professionals in war zones.

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a mental health officer, Stewart has been deployed with MSF to nations all over the world, including India, Bangladesh, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka. Her years of work with the organization has meant attending to the psychological needs of populations decimated by domestic and international conflict as well as health crises like addiction, domestic and sexual violence, and HIV/AIDS.

The lifesaving work of Stewart and other health care workers for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and MSF has always been perilous, but workers today face unprecedented dangers while providing medical services. In Nigeria and Pakistan, medical workers have been killed while providing polio vaccines. Impartiality its
elf can create unanticipated liabilities: workers with the ICRC and MSF face dangers of reprisal from one side of a conflict, if their services save the life of someone from the other side. Stewart will discuss her own experiences providing impartial care in the world’s most dangerous places, and the complex challenges health care workers face in difficult, complex environments.

More information on the challenges faced by the ICRC and MSF medical workers in areas of conflict can be found here.

The Lunch & Learn lecture will be presented Wednesday, March 18, from noon to 1 p.m. at the American Red Cross, 444 Sherman St. RSVPs are requested by 12 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, by clicking here. Webinar options are also available for remote audiences. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

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