Dr. Janet Cunningham, Chief of Staff at Glendale Adventist Medical Center and Director of its Family Medical Residency Program, travels this summer to Malawi as she has each year since 2006 to work with hospitals and clinics and to assist with establishing a family medicine department in the country’s medical school.
Her first trip, with the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance, introduced her to the great need in the small African nation. Malawi is at the epicenter of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic; more than 50,000 people die of AIDS-related illnesses each year, and the country has one million orphaned children.
On recent trips, Dr. Cunningham has helped develop local programs. “I’ve done home visits mostly to observe what services are there and to teach rather than provide care directly,” she said. “This is a learning experience for me as well, but I try to pass on my knowledge and experience where applicable.”
She is a tremendous resource for Malawi’s health care managers and volunteers, with two decades of experience in GAMC’s Family Residency Program, board certification in Family Medicine, clinical experience seeing office patients of all ages, the M.P.H. and M.B.A. degrees she obtained after becoming a physician, and her membership in professional organizations such as the American College of Physician Executives.
This summer she is traveling with a surgeon, obGyn, neonatologist, GAMC family medicine resident, and two medical students. They will be working at the Adventist hospital in Malamulo. Dr. Cunningham will also be working to establish family medicine residencies in cities around the country. She looks forward to the work: “These efforts are an inspiration for me as they remind me of the resilience of human beings, their ability to problem solve in difficult situations, and the power of community to lift up the brokenhearted.”