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Changing the face of healthcare

Michelle Fernández by Michelle Fernández  •  posted a year ago in story

Meet the all-woman team of surgeons changing the face of healthcare in Cambodia.


Cambodia’s healthcare system collapsed forty years ago.

In the 1970s, the Khmer Rouge came to power in Cambodia and targeted the educated class. 1 in 4 Cambodians — roughly two million people — were killed during its four-year rule. By the end of the war, only 40 doctors survived.


The healthcare system hasn't recovered.

Because of the Khmer Rouge’s legacy, there are few well-trained doctors in Cambodia — and even fewer well-trained women doctors.

But at Children’s Surgical Centre (CSC), a free clinic based in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, an all-woman ENT (ear, nose, throat) team is changing the face of healthcare.

“We’ve always needed more doctors. I decided I should be one of them.”

“My mother was always sick,” Sothea, a surgeon who has trained on the team for two years, told us. “We went to the hospital a lot and I always saw a lot of patients. But there were never many doctors. We’ve always needed more doctors. And I decided I should be one of them.”

“I have to know how to do everything.”

At 27 years old, Kim is the newest surgeon-in-training at CSC. “I have to know how to do everything no matter how scared I am or how much I doubt myself,” she said, “because there's no one else who can do it."

“I want to help people when no one else can.”

At CSC, Davy was one of the founding members of the ENT team. In her two years training at the hospital, she has become one of the most successful ENT surgeons in the world — her success rate for a complex ear surgery is 91% compared to 85% worldwide. “I want to learn something that no one else is doing,” she told us, “and I want to help people when no one else can.”

“We need to teach the next generation.”

Davy spends a typical day meeting patients, performing surgery, and training the other women on her team. “Training is not just important for my patients. It’s important for all patients. We need to teach the next generation to make sure everyone gets care.”

“We need more opportunities to rebuild.”

“Watsi is not just funding care for patients,” Davy said. “It’s creating opportunities to train more doctors. We need more opportunities like this to rebuild the system.” In the last three years, support from Watsi donors has enabled CSC to train doctors like Davy and treat 2,348 patients.

17-year-old Baraing is one of those patients.

When he was younger, an untreated ear infection resulted in years of discharge, pain, and hearing loss. By the time we met him, the infection had spread to his skull and threatened to kill him.

“We were afraid no one could help.”

“We didn’t know where to take him,” said Baraing’s mother. “We were afraid no one could help.” CSC posted Baraing’s profile on Watsi, and in one week, 15 donors raised $809 for his treatment. Davy performed the surgery to remove his infection and today, Baraing is on the road to recovery.

Help us make sure patients like Baraing always get help.

Covering the cost of patient care means that surgeons like Davy, Kim, and Sothea have the chance to treat more patients. Join the Universal Fund with a recurring donation and automatically support a Watsi patient like Baraing every month.

Join the Universal Fund


Michelle Fernández

Telling the stories of Watsi patients and donors. Head of Content at Watsi.