Many of you read the story of how the state of orphanages in Russia gripped me when I was in the 9th grade.
That same year, Ryan White was thrust into the spotlight as he fought for his right to attend school. Erica Palys was gripped by this compelling story—and did her 8th grade research paper on whether or not children with AIDS should be allowed to attend public school. She remembers being amazed that people could be so cruel when he just wanted a chance at education. She quickly became fascinated with the social and political aspect of HIV—and began her long journey through medical school & residency.
Her residency program was committed to caring for a large population of HIV patients, whether or not they had the ability to pay. And while in residency, she worked in Kenya for a month to pursue her interest in international HIV work. In Kenya, she was fortunate to work with a group from Indiana University that has been making huge strides in HIV care for the last 15 years. Their holistic approach has been very successful, and their genuine love for the people overwhelmed her. She learned a lot about HIV, medicine and life in her 4 weeks there.
Inspired by her work in international HIV care, she returned from Kenya and started a nonprofit, handle with care, along with friends in her residency to help fund groups committed to testing and treating those with HIV. Their first fundraising event raised over $30,000 for the program that she was a part of in Kenya. This year, their event is on March 1st (Just a few days before she leaves for Uganda with doma!) This year, the donations will go toward The Los Angeles Christian Health Centers (formerly the LA Mission Community Clinic), which serves the downtown LA and Skid Row populations.
Erica is now in her first year as an Infectious Disease fellow, and plans to stay involved in international HIV work when she’s finished. She is looking forward to the Uganda trip, as it’ll be her first time back to Africa since her time in Kenya. Erica is sure that her experiences with the IU-Kenya Program will help her assist doma in how we approach testing and treating of HI, as well as other infectious and noninfectious illnesses. Erica looks forward to making an impact in Uganda… “But if my trip to Kenya is any indication, Uganda will have a bigger impact on me!”
Tune in later this week to check out our itinerary and to meet another traveler or two.