Breanna Barger-Kamate, MD
I grew up in Arlee Montana, a small town 30 minutes north of Missoula. I attended the University of Montana, initially studying political science and French. I returned for an additional year of pre-medicine study to qualify for medical school. I had my first experiences with global health research working as a research assistant to Dr. Peter Koehn on his transnational competency work. After completing my undergrad, I moved to Washington DC where I worked at the National Institutes of Health on a project that took me to Mali. During this year I also applied to medical school. In the fall of 2004, I began my studies at Montana State through the WWAMI program. After my third year of medical school I was accepted into the Forgarty International Health Scholars program. In the fall of 2007, I returned to Mali for a year. I helped conduct one of the earliest trials of using intermittent preventive treatment for malaria in school children. With this came abundant clinical experience and a front line education in health disparities.
In 2008, while seeing patients on the pediatric ward, I was increasingly concerned about the number of patients dying from poverty. They simply could not afford their diagnostic work up or treatment. I wrote an email home and within days several friends and family members had donated a few thousand dollars to help pay for care. At the end of rounds, the pediatric team would assess the needs of patients and determine who would need financial support. We would go and purchase the studies and medicines needed to continue patient care. The program became a huge success. Mali Medical Relief Fund was born! Patients benefited from the care they received, and the medical team is able to do much more to help patients in financial difficulty.
We continued our work even after I left to return to the USA. We had a reliable team of physicians and medical students who continued to refer patients and provide care. Over the years, we have benefited from generous donors who have helped our organization grow. The Mali Medical Relief Fund now supports 5 sites around the country and is able to provide complex surgeries including brain surgery, complex orthopedic surgeries, and even prostheses.
I completed my training in pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD. My day job is that I am an attending pediatric emergency medicine physician at Providence Sacred Heart in Spokane Washington. I continue on as the Chief of Operations and Chair of the board of Mali Medical Relief Fund. I am thrilled to be a part of the global health external advisory committee. I had such a wonderful start to my career at UM. I hope many others are able to join in the exciting field of global health.