Changing the world, one project at a time...

Since spending time in India as a young doctor, David Whittet has been passionate about supporting colleagues in the developing world and improving the quality of life for some of the most disadvantaged people on our planet.

Of his experience in India as a young doctor, David wrote:

‘It proved a tremendous culture shock. This was medicine in the raw on a scale I had never experienced before. I came back to my clinic thinking we have so much, the most modern and up to date equipment and teaching methods. In contrast, those doctors in India had so little, lacking the basic equipment we take for granted. I was deeply impressed by how much the isolated Indian doctors achieved with minimal facilities. Experiencing such inequities as a young man has given me a lifelong desire to help and support colleagues overseas. This is vital in developing countries where family doctors strive to achieve high-quality medicine, often against seemingly impossible difficulties.’

David’s project to develop family medicine in rural Orissa state (now Odisha), one of India’s poorest regions, was supported by the World Organization of Family Doctors (Wonca).

The great Orissa cyclone of 1999 struck during our project in the Mayurbhanj. Already devastated by an infant mortality rate twice that of the rest of India, the floods threatened to decimate the community. Field workers began an extraordinary medical relief mission. This was medicine in the raw and on a fantastic scale!

The project has proved hugely successful, and David is adapting the model for a rural community in Cambodia. David received a second Wonca Foundation Award, presented at the World Conference of Family Doctors in Mexico in May 2010, in support of the Cambodia project.

Delivering the inaugural Wesley Fabb Oration at the opening ceremony of the Wonca Asia Pacific Regional Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 31 March 2002, Professor Fabb, said:
‘Should we be concerned about the plight of general practitioners in India or Zimbabwe struggling to provide health care to a poor and often unappreciative population, under difficult economic and political circumstances? Often inadequately trained, short of supplies, poorly paid, overworked, harassed – should we care? Some do. New Zealander, David Whittet, went to Orissa State in India on a Wonca Foundation Award of just £1000 sterling and worked marvels. That can be repeated if the motivation is there.’

View the photo gallery for the India Project, including pictures of the great Orissa cyclone of 1999 and the relief effort.

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