People often think about community service during the holiday season, more so than other times of the year, but every helping hand counts wherever it is given.
Dr. Thomas Bilodeau of Concord, a primary care physician at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, and member of Lahey's Global Outreach Committee, returned from his tenth trip to Kenya, where he and other volunteers spent two and a half weeks administering health care to people in eight different villages.
The ongoing volunteer relief effort is organized by the International Medical Alliance of Tennessee, a philanthropic organization through which Bilodeau has been serving people in underserved communities all over the world for the last 15 years. From a clinic in Malden, to relief work after Hurricane Katrina, to medical aid in the remotest areas of Africa, Bilodeau is devoted to giving of himself to help as many people as he can.
"It's hard to come home and see these problems. You lay in bed at night and think about these problems you saw," Bilodeau said. "It changes obviously the way you look at things and it makes you appreciate your day to day health care."
While in Africa, Bilodeau and the team of four doctors, two nurse practitioners, two medical students, and three non-medical workers, saw up to 500 patients a day and treated medical conditions such as arthritis, asthma, worms, gastritis, malaria, burns, conjunctivitis, diarrhea, fractures, boils, pneumonia, and malnutrition.
Bilodeau said that though on a different scale, the problems he sees in places like Kenya are not unlike the problems people are facing right here at home.
"I think the problems are the same. People are hungry there, they're hungry here. I think it's just the magnitude," Bilodeau said. "They really have no access to health care. I think it's the same problem of needing healthcare and nutrition, it's just a different magnitude."
Putting it in that perspective, Bilodeau said, "You don't need to go overseas to find needy people."
In addition to the actual services he renders for people, Bilodeau said one of his main objectives in all of his volunteering is to expose other people to the need for such volunteers and show them the different opportunities and myriad ways one can give back not just during the holiday season, but all year long.
Click here to learn more about the International Medical Alliance, or visit the Lahey Clinic on line by clicking here.