Grace is an adolescent woman living in Mbeya, Tanzania. She has nominated her health provider, Dr Liane Campbell, as a Health Provider Champion.
Grace was nine years old when she started experiencing unusual symptoms, but at the time the health providers she had access to were unable to identify the reason she was unwell. Grace frequented multiple hospitals and was treated for a variety of illnesses, but none of the treatments seemed to address the root cause. By the time Grace was admitted to the malnutrition ward at Mbeya Zonal Referral Hospital, she was suffering from severe malnutrition, anaemia, scalp sores, and a rash across her face.
Grace’s life changed on the day she met Dr Liane Campbell, a paediatrician at the Baylor College of Medicine International Paediatric AIDS Initiative.
“I came to Tanzania in 2011 and finished my paediatrics training and then worked for a year. After that I joined the AIDS Initiative through Baylor, which places paediatricians around sub-Saharan Africa. The centre in Tanzania had only just opened, and I have been here ever since,” says Dr Campbell.
The pair swiftly became partners in Grace’s health journey.
“After years of suffering with rashes, Dr Liane was the first to take a skin biopsy and discover that I had histoplasmosis. She talked to me all the time in the wards and was able to change my ART regimen, link me to social workers and services, help me with DOTS support, and most importantly, find me a drug called amphotericin. I have learned that this is a difficult drug to get here, but Dr Liane managed it, and it helped save my life,” Grace says.
Dr Campbell has been a major role model in Grace’s story ever since. She looked after Grace in the ward, and then later in the clinic, providing her with amphotericin infusions, daily wound dressing care, other medicines, food support, and transport support. She also helped Grace find local housing, and later helped her find local schooling when she was stronger, since Grace’s home was over 100km away from the clinic.
“This kind of care and support was something I never experienced before I met her and her team.”
Grace shares the most important thing she has learned from Dr Campbell.
“When my scalp wound was not healing, Dr Liane taught me to never give up. She showed me that love of the clients during their care is so important, and that listening and good communication help to encourage patients to feel good about themselves.”
Dr Campbell feels that one of the biggest challenges facing young people living with HIV is the fear of not being heard.
“It is really important to me that in my practice we are very open with each other and very open about what challenges our kids are facing. Early in my medical training, the pre-ART era, I saw some of the difficulties people had in accessing antiretrovirals, especially in under-resourced areas and saw first-hand the intense suffering that people experienced at this time. It has been amazing to see the transformation over the last decade and to help scale up the antiretroviral care available to kids. But I’ve definitely seen stigma and mistreatment of patients in different settings. Some of it is related to an overburdened healthcare setting and sometimes its health providers not seeing themselves in the reality and context of others. At its core, treating people how you want to be treated, or how you want your children to be treated is so important. That is what inspires me to try and do the best that I can every day.”
But what makes Dr Campbell a Health Provider Champion?
“Dr Liane is quite different to other health providers whom I have met with before. She is kind, charming, and has a whole-person approach to care. She is compassionate and always has positive motivation. She fights stigma, and never undermines or shames us or makes fun of me, my HIV and skin conditions. An example for me is that my family members did not believe that I would survive when I was so seriously sick. They did not treat me and my mother well because of this stigma. But Dr Liane helped send social workers and palliative care team members to visit my home, and they helped settle some of these social problems with my family and neighbours relating to stigma and the social segregation that I experienced.”
Dr Campbell acknowledges the nomination with a sincere smile and a nod of humility. For her, providing stigma-free healthcare is a critical aspect of her role.
“I think we’re all human,” she says, “and part of the human condition is to get sick and experience illness. Whether its diabetes or HIV or anything else, at its core, something happens to us. Treating people how I would want my children or family to be treated is really important to me as a healthcare provider. One thing we really like to do here at Baylor is a team approach, where we work together with the kids and adults, parents, family, health providers, and so on, where everyone is part of the team. Everyone in the team has a role to carry, and when we work together, we feel like we can carry those burdens of a life-threatening illness more easily.”