When the Rotary Club admitted its first female members following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1987, Judith Clovsky was one of two women who immediately joined her local chapter in Elmira, New York.
In March 2107, Judith marked another first when she headed to Entebbe, Uganda, as part of a Rotary International mission.
Practicing medicine in Uganda
Judith describes the 10-day mission as an incredible experience that that made her even more deeply grateful for the life she leads. A career nurse, Judith was not fully prepared for the realities of practicing health care in a third-world country, even though she knew “on paper” what to expect, especially when travelling to rural outposts rather than working at their base at a local hospital. (View photos below.)
At one, they worked in a cinderblock building where exam rooms consisted of a desk, a cot, and a couple of chairs. People waited for hours under large tents set up outside the clinic.
“The people were so welcoming and so grateful,” Judith says. “I had prepared for this trip by calculating medication dosages, but really the skills I needed were much lower-level – connecting with a patient, conducting triage, taking blood pressure.
“We would prescribe medications for worms or malaria, which are huge problems in Uganda, but after the fact I realized that when the medicine was gone it was gone. They wouldn’t be able to afford to buy more,” Judith says. “Uganda is a nation where just 20 percent of the people are employed.”
Embarking on second mission in May
Realizations like these made the trip very emotional, but also rewarding, so much so that in May, Judith and her husband, a social worker, will embark on another Rotary Mission trip, this time to a refugee center on the island of Lampeduca near Sicily.
During the Uganda mission, Judith’s group included dentists, optometrists, and physicians, a few from as far away as Brazil and Denmark. In addition to providing treatment for local patients, the team also conducted training for Ugandan health professionals and students.
Preparing to help Middle Eastern refugees
Thinking ahead to her May trip, Judith is already researching health issues she feels refugees are likely to be coping with, such as PTSD and malnourishment. Other preparations include fundraising and gathering supplies. On the Uganda trip, for instance, the team brought medical supplies and 2,000 mosquito nets.
“My husband and I moved to Bethany Village two years ago, but we didn’t want to completely fall into the retirement mode,” Judith says. “We felt like we were too young to just hang it up. We wanted to be involved in the community in some way.”
From the sound of it, they have succeeded.