"Few books have mastered such a breadth of complex issues and done so in such clear and readily understandable prose. ...essential reading for every medical student and resident in the country, as well as anyone else who cares enough to address directly the health inequalities that plague so much of humanity."

-Robert Sparks, MD, Dean Emeritus Tulane University School of Medicine, President Emeritus and Senior Consultant for the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, former Chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, member Institute of Medicine.

Belize is a small country in Central America, with a population of 301,000 and more of a Caribbean feel. While most Americans who visit Belize find luxurious hotels, Mayan ruins, and plenty of sand and surf, Belize remains a developing country, with much of its population facing the challenges that routinely face those in developing countries. Life expectancy is just 68.8 years, a full decade less than that in the US, with a GDP per capita of just $3,800 (2007 est.) vs. $46,040 (2007 est.) in the United Sates. Belize’s health providers provide high quality care with limited resources, though have long struggled to find affordable means to keep their medical knowledge up to date.

Since its inception in 1997 Omni Med’s Belize “cooperative venture” has assisted Belizean health providers in many health areas, particularly in medical education. In 1999, Dr. John O’Brien became the first physician to visit Belize through the program, teaching in 8 hospitals and clinics throughout the country for one to two days at a time. The program quickly took root and has become the principal means of continuing medical education for the health providers of Belize. Prime Minister Said Musa called the Omni Med program and “integral component” of the Belizean effort to provide “quality and affordable health care for all.” The government of Belize continues to fund and support our in-country efforts, as it has since 2001.

Our physicians traverse the country, teaching health care providers in six government hospitals and two other sites that serve the country’s poor. We send one or two physicians at a time, most of whom have no prior international health experience, for ten-day teaching tours of one or two days per site at seven sites in Belize: Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, Belmopan Hospital, San Ignacio Hospital, La Loma Luz Hospital, Orange Walk Hospital, Dangriga Hospital, and Universal Health Services. We send physicians every other month from September through May, for a total of five visits annually. We also send physicians for return visits on more focused teaching/ service missions

Omni Med physician visits total 40 since 1999. We have sent a physician assistant, a nurse practitioner and the following physician specialists: radiology, vascular surgery, orthopedic/ hand surgery, asthma and allergy, neurology, emergency medicine, ophthalmology, family practice, general surgery, pediatrics, ob-gyn, internal medicine, endocrinology. All have enjoyed their experiences and felt they made significant contributions to the health providers—and hence the people—of Belize. New physician volunteers receive an extensive orientation package that fully prepares them for their visit. Physicians learn about the culture, history, peoples, customs, and health of the population before they leave for Belize. Our overall program goals are multiple. First, we seed to meet directly the needs stated by our Belizean colleagues. As such, we constantly update and change our programs based on the feedback we receive from out Belizean participants. Second, we seek to provide a highly effective, short-term teaching opportunity for those in health care who have not previously done such work, expanding the pool of US health providers with global experience in the process. Third, we offer each of our volunteers the opportunity for further involvement in Belize or at our other program sites. We find that many of our volunteers want to return, and several have gone on to develop innovative programs in Belize and elsewhere as a result. Those interested in volunteering for the Belize program should contact Dr O’Neil directly at ejoneil@omnimed.org

Please see Belize’s Prime Minister Said Musa’s endorsement of Omni Med’s efforts in the country (click here to read Prime Minister Musa‘s letter).

CFC # 10999

Belize is a small country in Central America, bordered by Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras

Population is 301,000; with average per capita income of $3,800; 33% live below the poverty line

Life expectancy is 66.2 years; one of every 42 infants dies before their first birthday; HIV/ AIDS Prevalence is 2.4% of the adult population

Omni Med has been sending physicians and allied health personnel to Belize since January 1999. Over 40 have rotated through six hospitals and several other clinics teaching—and learning from—their Belizean counterparts. Former Belizean Prime Minister Said Musa called the Omni Med program an “integral component” of health reform in Belize.