The public private partnership between Peace Corps Response and the Global Health Volunteer organization represents a brand new direction for Peace Corps. The purpose of the partnership is to enhance the medical training in host countries by placing highly qualified medical educators, doctors and nurses, in positions of teaching authority in medical education institutions. This represents a new direction for Peace Corps, because the agency will pay an NGO to manage the program, recruit the participants, who do not have to be RPCVs, and the NGO will  provide direct supervision and support in country. This initial three year contract calls for 36 medical educators, per year, to be assigned to these positions in Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania.

In describing the program on npr’s Health notes, Director of Global Health Volunteers, Dr. Vanessa Kerry, said “Partnering with the Peace Corps is a strategic move — not only for name recognition — but to tap into its half-century of experience.“The Peace Corps doesn’t have the technical capacity to do clinical medicine and nursing,” Kerry says. “But they do well at deploying people in a sensitive, integrated way.” Here is the link to that interview:http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/09/18/161381770/a-peace-corps-for-doctors-built-by-a-senators-daughter

In addition to funding the administrative costs, which include clinical support, Peace Corps will subsidize the Peace Corps Response/Global Health Volunteers with the same living allowance, health and other benefits, that all Volunteers receive. Funding, independent of Peace Corps, has been secured to compensate these professionals up to $30,000 per year to help retire medical education loans and other expenses. The PCR/GH Volunteers do not have to be RPCVs, they do have to have appropriate medical credentials. The Global Health Organization will pre-qualifiy the medical credentials of applicants, Peace Corps will make the final choice  from a list of such applicants. The PCR/GHVs  will serve for a minimum of one year which includes three weeks of orientation to the country and culture of service. Language training will not be required.  English is considered the official language of the first three countries.

To read the contract agreement, this is the text to link to:pc_and_ghsc_cooperative_agreement_13-0079

To read the concept paper describing the program, this is the text to link to: concept_paper_for_peace_corps_global_health_service_partnership-1

To listen to Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet and Dr. Vanessa Kerry discuss this new program on another npr program, here is the link to that interview: http://www.npr.org/2013/01/14/169334681/new-ground-for-peace-corps

The Peace Corps Response Global Health Volunteer partnership is new for Peace Corps, but the idea of providing medical educators to developing nations is not. The final npr interview with Dr. Kerry does describe other such programs.  Here is that link: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/01/28/170491290/u-s-doctors-head-overseas-to-train-not-just-treat

None of these reports, interviews, or documents, addresses the reason that Peace Corps Volunteer doctors and nurses do not currently treat. The Peace Corps Technical Guideline 310, Office of Medical Services, May 2005, 2) ELEMENTS OF HEALTH TRAINING  states:

The PCMOs also need to remind the PC staff, Peace Corps Trainees, and Peace Corps Volunteers that V/Ts are not authorized to participate in direct health care activities. These activities include, but are not limited to, participating in immunization programs, attending or otherwise assisting with childbirths, performing phlebotomy, insertion of intravenous catheters, and other activities that may place them at risk for exposure to blood or body fluids.

If there is a evaluation that concludes that  as Dr. Kerry remarked: “The Peace Corps doesn’t have the technical capacity to do clinical medicine and nursing,” I have not been able to find it.It would appear to  me that this is a question of Volunteer safety, not technical capacity.  Peace Corps Volunteer Nurses and Doctors have served for over fifty years. It is hoped that their contribution will not be obscured in order to justify a “new direction.”  For all of us who have served, any program that improves medical education or serves in the developing world is to be welcomed and supported.