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Massachusetts Doctors, Teen Volunteers "all set" for Humanitarian Trip to Malawi

- UMass Memorial Marlborough Hospital doctor will make annual medical aid trip to impoverished African nation -

A UMass Memorial Marlborough Hospital (Marlborough Hospital) surgeon will help lead a team of high school volunteers on a trip of a lifetime when they head to the African nation of Malawi this week. It is all part of Bridges to Malawi, a humanitarian mission to "help improve the provision of medical care to the people of Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world." Donald Hangen, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Marlborough Hospital and Brian Lisse, MD, an associate clinical professor of emergency medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, are the physician-leads for the mission. Dr. Lisse is also the president and founder of the organization and its programs.  

Bridges to Malawi, a small, secular Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization, recruits American health care providers with diverse skills and abilities dedicated to helping the people of the Kasungu East District of Malawi. The unpaid volunteers work closely with local clinicians in the resource-challenged Malawian health care system to provide desperately needed medical help, supplies, and medications to the Malawian people.  Bridges to Malawi also conducts a variety of development projects year-round in the Kasungu East District.  

"In addition to addressing medical needs, we are also promoting cross-cultural health care educational opportunities where all the providers, locals and Americans, can exchange knowledge and skills to enhance the clinical capabilities of the members of each group," said Dr. Lisse. 

A second part of the mission is to recruit a select few American high school juniors and seniors, by means of an annual scholarship competition to travel with one of the medical teams going to Malawi.  The students are given training in tropical diseases and other medical conditions they will see in Malawi, as well as training in Malawian culture and language.

"These students play a critical role in the fulfillment of our mission, and our success relies heavily on their willingness to embrace complex and unfamiliar situations," Dr. Hangen said. "This is an extraordinary opportunity for these young people to understand the many challenges facing the people of Malawi. I hope it instills in them a shared humanity with the people they meet - and that they will become lifelong advocates for the cause to provide medical care to some of the most medically underserved people in the world.”

This year's team of high school volunteers include Nashoba Regional High School's Halle Hangen, 17, a senior, and junior Maddie Edwards,16; Hudson High School seniors Gabriela Batista,18, Jessica Gordon, 17, and Samantha McLaughlin,18; and Herzen Reis, 16, a Junior from Marlborough High School.

The crew will leave for Malawi on Saturday, April 7, from Boston's Logan International Airport and return on Sunday, April 22. To learn about their mission and see photos from past trips, visit  www.bridgestomalawi.org  where you can also make a donation to the program.