Adam Teitelman and Dr. William Cherniak believe health care is a basic human right. They are taking on that crusade with Bridge to Health, a nonprofit striving to bring sustainable health care to underserved communities around the world.
“Everyone has a right to access health care services,” says Dr. Cherniak, an emergency physician in Toronto. “When you meet people in rural parts of the world, you realize they are just like you and me. The only difference is because of the places they were born or the laws of their society are stacked against them. We are trying to provide access to the same care we have, so individuals in these countries can lead healthy, safe, successful lives.”
Founded in Canada in 2012 by Dr. Cherniak and five other medical and dental professionals, Bridge to Health brings comprehensive, sustainable health care to rural and underserviced areas.
Last April, the organization expanded to launch Bridge to Health USA. “Often times, people think you have to go somewhere very far away to make a difference in the world,” says Teitelman, co-founder, chief operating officer and vice chair for the board of Bridge to Health USA. “People aren’t only suffering abroad. They are suffering in rural and underserviced areas around the United States, which is why we are bringing this home. It doesn’t make sense that we have some of the top health care systems in the world, yet many don’t get a chance to benefit from it.”
Bridge to Health USA will launch its pilot programs in Peru as well as in Ohio and Baltimore.
Both Teitelman and Dr. Cherniak have ties to Charm City. Teitelman is a Baltimore native and Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School graduate; Dr. Cherniak received a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and practiced urgent care medicine in South Baltimore.
“When looking at zip code rates, some health care conditions are six times worse in West Baltimore than in the suburbs,” says Teitelman. “It’s shocking. There are over 300 organizations working in the health care world in Baltimore, yet there is still no targeted approach to align people to the proper systems. We are focusing our efforts on West Baltimore and have identified key issues around hypertension, nutrition and oral care.”
Says Dr. Josh Sharfstein, a member of the BTH USA advisory board and former health commissioner and health secretary in Baltimore: “I am hopeful Bridge to Health can work closely with great organizations here to bring more resources and needed services to people in Baltimore. Bridge to Health aims to address unmet needs, and with the right partners, can contribute to the health of Baltimore.”
Since its creation, Bridge to Health has sent more than 150 volunteers to provide health care to over 45,000 patients across East Africa, in countries like Uganda and Kenya.
“Our goal is to listen and take time to figure out what the countries are doing in terms of health care and how we can work with them to improve what’s already taking place,” Dr. Cherniak explains.
Both Dr. Cherniak and Teitelman feel through training and education, their organization can make a profound difference in the world.
“We will always support local governments and physicians,” says Teitelman. “Each time we go on an outreach, we are providing local doctors with skills to be able to deliver more sophisticated care. We never want to go into a place and say this is how things should be done. We come in, ask questions and work together to help create something better for those we care for.”
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