As I write this to you, I am working in Dushanbe, Tajikistan with my ASCP Volunteer colleague, Dave Gingrich. We are teaching and training in preanalytical processes. Our Tajik colleagues come from the far and remote reaches of their country, where they provide blood drawing and patient services to the people of their respective regions. They’re calling me Bunafsha…Beverly doesn’t translate, so they’ve given me the name of a flower. By description, it sounds like a yellow water lily…strange for a country with so little water, but perhaps it’s because I come from over water they’ve never seen. In my travels I can’t help but compare and contrast different cultures and their reaction/interaction to us as “foreign experts.” We were told Tajiks could be shy, yet nothing is further from the truth! What lovely, respectful, personable people.
Our last few days of teaching/training in laboratory processes have been eye-opening. We heard that due to lack of supplies in some remote and rural clinics, safe practices are very difficult to adopt because they aren’t able to get basic resources like syringes. I was certain this had been translated incorrectly, so asked again several times…only to hear I’d heard right the first time. It was also described for us that tubes of blood were centrifuged, the serum transferred to glass tubes (hand-washed, not sterilized) and the patient requisition is twisted into a cork-like cap for the tube so it can be transported 3-4 hours to a regional lab for HIV/AIDS testing…and no one had ever heard of Parafilm. My heart breaks for conditions of such limited and much needed resources that could so easily be remedied. And yet, despite such circumstances, they are so eager for knowledge of better techniques, safer ways of doing things, and so positive about their situation without bitterness for what they don’t have—that I am in the confused state of being humbled and enthusiastic all at the same time. How can what we are doing make a difference? And yet, how can it not?
In just a few short days, we have shared ideas, techniques, and the passion for our professions—and I’ve shared several of your “best practices” with them that I’ve been writing about over this past year—and the circle of our collective desire to improve laboratory services is truly global. Dave and I both feel we now have many new laboratory friends in Tajikistan!
–Beverly Sumwalt, MA, DLM, CLS, MT(ASCP) is an ASCP Global Outreach Volunteer Consultant.