Dr. Alvi is a doctor at ASRI, Health In Harmony’s cornerstone partner in Indonesia. He recently participated in a four-month professional exchange program at Yale University where he learned more about internal medicine and shared his knowledge of the connections between human health and the health of rainforests. His journey is a great example of partnership and planetary health in action. We hope this interview with Dr. Alvi inspires other physicians and institutions to see their practice in a new light.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE MEDICINE?
I was inspired by my mom, a midwife, who dedicated herself to caring for people in an underserved area in West Java. Once, while performing a complicated delivery, her patient was diagnosed with eclampsia (life threatening hypertension in pregnancy). My mom struggled to find help due to a lack of human resources and tools. Thanks to her diligence, she was able to give the patient the correct initial management and then transfer her, in time, to a bigger facility. After that, I decided to pursue medicine, hoping to do my part to improve health regulations and make healthcare more accessible for all.
WHAT ARE THE MOST VALUABLE LESSONS YOU LEARNED AS A PHYSICIAN AT ASRI?
At ASRI, I discovered that human health and environmental health greatly impact each other. I also learned how to pilot a rural medicine project by working at ASRI’s second site near Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park – processes like surveying, Radical Listening, hiring, training, and more.
HOW CAN THESE LESSONS FURTHER THE PLANETARY HEALTH MOVEMENT AND MEDICAL FIELD?
Doctors and other medical professionals have an important role in influencing and making change in society. By helping more professionals realize how much climate change impacts patient health, they will start to make a positive environmental and societal impact.
WHAT ARE THE MOST VALUABLE LESSONS YOU LEARNED AS A STUDENT AT YALE?
I participated in many studies and advanced procedures, including some new ones. The term “medical mystery” seems impossible to use in the U.S. because of the advanced testing available to diagnose patients. The opportunity to observe physicians performing diagnostic studies sharpened my clinical sense, since medical histories and physical exams are always confirmed by advanced testing. These experiences will help me establish a better standard of care now that I am back at ASRI.
WHY IS HEALTH IN HARMONY’S PARTNERSHIP WITH YALE IMPORTANT TO YOU?
This partnership has great potential. Many students at Yale were interested in learning about the methods that ASRI and Health In Harmony use, like Radical Listening, and our central approach – to address healthcare and conservation simultaneously. Doctors at ASRI now have full access to Yale’s medical library, some of the best resources for medical information and updates. Plus, physicians at Yale continue to share their medical knowledge with ASRI in unique ways – for example, an emergency medicine attendant recently video-chatted with ASRI doctors to discuss ultrasounds.
WHAT WAS LIFE LIKE IN THE U.S.?
Did you face any challenges?
At the start of the exchange, it was challenging to master the differences in the U.S. medical record system compared to Indonesia’s. In the U.S., all medical information is processed within an electronic system; in Indonesia the system is paper-based. It was also challenging to understand American jokes and expressions, sometimes. Over time I adapted to these differences.
Are there any successes you are especially proud of?
I spoke about planetary health and climate change at the VA Hospital of Connecticut to physicians and residents. They were very interested in to learn about climate change and planetary health.
Do you have a favorite American food yet?
I tried some American food, such as New Haven pizza, deep dish Chicago style pizza, Philadelphia cheese steak – they are okay.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU?
Now that I have returned to ASRI, I will maintain my relationship with Yale and continue to collaborate with them – especially in research and publications related to planetary and public health. Yale is a great place to study and I would like the chance to visit again the future.