Bioethics Blogs

Creative Minds: Lessons from Halfway Around the Globe

Caption: Duncan Maru (right) and Community Health Director Ashma Baruwal (left) evaluating a patient in rural Nepal.
Credit: Allison Shelley

A decade ago, as a medical student doing volunteer work at a hospital in India’s capital of New Delhi, Duncan Maru saw a young patient who changed the course of his career: a 12-year-old boy in a coma caused by advanced tuberculosis (TB). Although the child had been experiencing TB symptoms for four months, he was simply given routine antibiotics and didn’t receive the right drugs until his parents traveled hundreds of miles at considerable expense to bring him to a major hospital. After five weeks of intensive treatment, the boy regained consciousness and he was able to walk and talk again.

That’s quite an inspiring story. But it’s also a story that haunted Maru because he knew that if this boy had access to good primary care at the local level, his condition probably never would have become so critical. Determined to help other children and families in similar situations, Maru has gone on to dedicate himself to developing innovative ways of providing high-quality, low-cost health care in developing areas of the world. His “lab” for testing these efforts? The South Asian nation of Nepal—specifically, the poverty-stricken, rural district of Achham, which is located several hundred miles west of the national capital of Kathmandu.

Maru is the founder of Possible, a non-governmental organization that currently manages Achham’s health care system through a public-private partnership with Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population. Since 2008, Possible has treated over 170,000 patients in Achham with its web of community health workers, clinics, government hospitals, and a referral network.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.