International location: Nepal
Reason for international trip (Conference, lecturer, Service/volunteer, other):
Dr. Michel D. Landry was invited by the World Health Organization to be their disability and rehabilitation policy advisor in Nepal following the April 2015 earthquake.
Brief description of international experience:
Dr. Landry’s responsibilities during his time in Nepal included rounding on patients that were in acute care and step down facilities to facilitate triage and discharge planning of injured individuals, helping establish a 2,000 kg mobile hospital that could be transported by helicopter to remote areas (see picture), and helping to develop long-term policy on disability for the country. This natural disaster, though incredibly devastating and tragic, helped to establish a greater focus on disability and rehabilitation planning following disaster scenarios in Nepal, and in the future.
What were some challenges you faced during your time overseas? (Language, culture, professional barriers)
The traditional response is to consider physical, environmental and political obstacles faced by disaster relief workers in foreign countries; these can include language barriers, poor living conditions, and many unexpected such as monsoons; these were all challenges Dr. Landry stated he faced in Nepal, and they are important. However, in addition to these external challenges, the greatest challenge Dr. Landry says is one’s own mental state and preparedness in entering a post disaster state. He further expresses that there is no way to truly prepare to see the life and death conditions after a disaster, and this is where experience and mental toughness are critically important to the success of the mission.
How do you feel this experience contributed to your career? Specifically to the physical therapy profession, if applicable.
Dr. Landry believes that in some capacity, during his time in Nepal and over the past 20 years working in other post conflict and disasters areas, he (and countless other physical therapists around the world) has helped to mainstream a role for physical therapy and rehabilitation on a global scale. He believes that physical therapy has gained greater visibility in recent years, advancing the need for the profession, not only locally, but now also globally. He also helped establish a role for physical therapy in an organization named International Organization for Migration (IOM) during his time spent in Nepal.
Would you recommend an international experience for students, and if so, why?
Dr. Landry would absolutely recommend international experiences for students; however, he believes in a very controlled and mentored environment where students can develop skills, capacities and competencies needed to be effective health care providers. Additionally, he would hope that these skills could then be translated to a more global environment for sustainability purposes. Dr. Landry believes in rejecting the notion of global health, but rather in creating a concept of community population and public health around the world. He states it is time to not think about them, and us, separately, but to think of us all together.