Get to Know the 2019 MedicalMissions.org Advanced Practitioner of the Year
PA-C Neurosurgery Physician Assistant, Johns Hopkins Hospital
Kathy Gauthier, PA-C is a neurosurgery advanced practitioner at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and when she isn’t serving patients there, she’s passionate about helping women become independent in one of the most impoverished nations in the world. Kathy has been involved in medical mission work for the past four years, and her aid has a tremendous impact on so many people throughout the world, particularly the women of Haiti.
What drew Kathy into medical missions?
Kathy was motivated to serve during medical missions in part because her past experiences living abroad. These experiences afforded her a deep appreciation for different cultures and languages. “Most importantly, though,” said Kathy, “was a deep drive to share and to serve, especially those who by mere accident of birth do not have access to first-world medical care.”
Kathy has been doing mission work since 2016. Soon after her first medical mission in the Jalapa region of Guatemala, Kathy discovered Mercy Focus on Haiti and has been traveling the country with them ever since.
What is Mercy Focus on Haiti?
Mercy Focus on Haiti is “a group of committed people who share a desire to respond in an effective way to ongoing human needs in Haiti.” One aspect of Mercy Focus on Haiti’s charity work is its Pathway to a Better Life program, or Chemen Lavi Miyo (CLM), as it’s known in Haitian Creole.
Pathway to a Better Life is an 18-month program that not only provides Haitian women and their families with immediate, short-term medical care but also empowers them to be able to care for themselves long after the program ends. During the program, a cohort of 200 women work to eliminate acute poverty by working with medical missionaries and case managers. After graduating the program, the women should be able to feed their children every day and eliminate malnutrition in their households, live in a house with a tin roof and have their own latrine, send all or most of their children to school and have at least two sources of income, $185 worth of productive assets and a plan for the future.
Haiti is the most impoverished country in the western hemisphere, with more than half of the population living on less than $2 a day. As the first cohort entered into the Pathway to a Better Life program, over 1000 patients, including participants and their family members, received medical care over the course of three days.
How does she envision the organization will grow?
The second cohort of women are halfway through the Pathway to a Better Life program right now, and the charity just raised the funds to support a third cohort. “As MFOH grows,” says Kathy, “I hope it can continue to change the lives of the poorest of the poor – 200 women at a time – through this amazingly successful 18-month empowerment program.”
More information about Kathy
When asked what drew her to the field of neurology, Kathy replied, “I was always fascinated by the brain, its beauty and mysteries. I found it the most challenging subject area in PA school! I love the fact that it is a field that is rapidly evolving in step with new imaging techniques, cutting-edge research, etc. That said, I love the broad spectrum of medicine that PA training and experience exposes me to and appreciate that medical missions allow me to work across this wider spectrum.” Not only does Kathy provide care to patients during missions, but she also provides medical supplies, which she pays for out of her own pocket, including items as simple as protective eyewear like sunglasses to give out to patients to protect them from the elements in the Guatemalan countryside. She’s also passionate about inspiring others to attend missions and provide their services as well. When she brought a colleague along on a mission to Guatemala in 2017, they reported on the first day of the mission that it was the most rewarding day in their 17-year career as a PA.
A patient story in Kathy’s words
“A special story from my most recent medical visit, while traveling with a Haitian nurse, concerned a woman who was being treated for chronic gastritis. We also treated her 20-year old son for the same condition, as her 2-year old twins played nearby. I noted that the children’s hair, while predominantly orange-tinged, was growing in with black roots, a sign of the improved nutrition they were receiving by virtue of being in the CLM program. I also learned the woman had turned a modest stipend offered by CLM in the first 24 weeks of the program into an investment tool, with which she had purchased animals that had already reproduced! So this woman – who, nine months ago, had ZERO assets to her name, who could not feed her family every day nor send her kids to school – now owned a sheep, five goats, and two turkeys! Her children and she were clearly on a Pathway to a Better Life!”