How We Started
Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation—Lesotho (BCMCF-L) operates the Baylor College of Medicine/Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Clinical Center of Excellence (COE) in the capital, Maseru, and five Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital/Bristol-Myers Squibb Satellite Centers of Excellence (SCOEs) in Botha-Bothe, Leribe, Mohale’s Hoek, Mokhotlong, and Qacha’s Nek districts. BCMCF-L also provides medical expertise and professional training to Ministry of Health hospitals and health centers throughout the country. The SCOEs particularly help decentralize health care outside the capital, since each satellite acts as a catalyst to build its outreach programs, Teen Clubs, and educational efforts. BCMCF-L staff provide practical hands-on training in HIV, TB, and general child health at the COE, SCOEs, and on-site at public health facilities.
In many ways, geography remains the greatest hurdle for BCMCF-L to overcome. Lesotho is small but very mountainous, making travel extremely difficult for people living in the country’s many remote villages. Thus, while Lesotho’s families need the same testing, counseling, care, treatment, and psychosocial services typical of any HIV-affected family, BCMCF-L faces significant challenges in getting its services and education to those people.
In the coming years, BCMCF-L plans to expand its psychosocial services for all ages, particularly for adolescents. By the end of 2014, Teen Club membership at our COE and SCOEs had grown to include over 900 HIV-positive adolescents. Caring Fathers, a support group for men who have HIV-infected family members, encourages men to get tested, access treatment, and support their families. Also unique among the BIPAI network, Lesotho provides comprehensive medical evaluation of children released for international and local adoption from orphanages in Lesotho. Thus far, 100 children have been evaluated.
BIPAI’s Global Health Corps (GHC) physicians are based at the Maseru COE, and together with a strong local medical team provide direct patient care to HIV-exposed and infected children and their families. Additionally, they provide medical education to health professionals throughout the country through didactic lectures and side-by-side mentoring both at the COE and at health centres and hospitals across the country. GHC physicians spend approximately 25% of their time providing health education and medical care outside of the COE. Those interested in inpatient medicine rotate through pediatric wards at the nearby national referral hospital – Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital – where they also contribute to training young physicians during their internship. Opportunities for medical student education are also available, as in 2014 Lesotho established its first medical school. Opportunities also exist for GHC physicians to contribute to local health care policy by serving on relevant technical advisory committees to the Ministry of Health.
Recently, BCMCF-L has made efforts to improve and increase its local research capabilities. GHC physicians interested in research and quality improvement efforts will find a receptive environment. New programmatic endeavors are welcomed. For example, a previously funded program involved improving diagnosis of tuberculosis in children. BCMCF-L is committed to improving the health and well-being of all children in Lesotho, leading to endless opportunities for motivated, innovative physicians.