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David Geffen School of Medicine

Postcard from Malawi

 Dr. Risa Hoffman with children from Chinteche, Malawi
Risa Hoffman, M.D. '00, M.P.H., visits children in Chinteche, Malawi, a small village participating in the CITW nutrition program.

Risa Hoffman, M.D. '00, M.P.H., is assistant clinical professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and co-director of the UCLA Program in Global Health. Her research focuses on HIV in women in the U.S. and Africa, and she is engaged in developing programs for medical students and residents at international sites.

In 2005, I traveled to Malawi for the first time as a volunteer pediatrician for Children in the Wilderness (CITW), a non-governmental organization serving orphans and other vulnerable children in Africa. It was during this time that I developed a lasting and passionate connection to Malawi and its people. Two years later, I spent an extended time there conducting research as part of my infectious-diseases training, an experience that strengthened my commitment to serving adults and children in this region of the world. Since that time, my colleagues at the UCLA Program in Global Health and I have developed a collaboration with Partners in Hope, a clinic in the capital city of Lilongwe, and have traveled there several times a year to assist with clinical care, program development and research.

UCLA's main initiative with Partners in Hope, the Expanding Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP) in Malawi, is a President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief/USAID-funded project. It focuses on improving the capacity and quality of HIV care. It involves workforce training, integrating and strengthening linkages within the continuum of care, and performing operational research to inform the future of Malawi's HIV programs and policies.

Postcard from Malawi
For many Malawians, Partners in Hope is the primary source of free HIV and AIDS treatment, support and education.

In addition to Partners in Hope/EQUIP, I continue working with my CITW colleagues. We have established a nutrition program in a rural community in northern Malawi. Two major program components have been initiated: a communal garden for community education and shared cultivation of crops for the local villages, and family gardens for specific guardians and caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children and the neediest families. Since the inception of this program, the nutrition gardens have helped more than 60 families and several hundred children. In the coming year, it is expanding to include school-based nutrition education.

The challenges in Malawi are endless. However, I am very lucky to be working with people who are making inroads.

For more information about the UCLA Program in Global Health and CITW, go to: www.globalhealth.med.ucla.edu and www.childreninthewilderness.com


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