Dr. Alia Marie Dennis, an Intensivist Physician

Tuesday February 12, 2008 11:05:00 AM

 Dr. Alia Dennis

Dr. Alia Marie Dennis always wanted to travel and work overseas, but she kept putting it off until she finished her schooling to become a pediatric physician with a specialty in intensive care. She had the option to do traumatic brain injury research or to step out of her comfort zone. She chose the latter. "When I arrived at 4 AM in the Dominican Republic for the first time, not speaking a work of Spanish with only a hotel address and a couple of ICHF contact names, I was definitely out of my comfort zone," laughed Dr. Dennis.

She found her way to the ICHF through the Internet. "It was the mission of the organization that attracted me. To make the need for ICHF obsolete is an ambitious and worthy goal. ICHF medical teams go places that really need them and are learning to make what we know here in the U.S. fit into other cultures.  I had to be part of that. It's all about finding simple solutions and making in-country staff self sufficient through ICHF teaching."

She loves the work, but it has its challenges. "The language barrier most challenging part of the work," reports Dr. Dennis. "It's an exciting breakthrough for me when the in-country doctors and nurses begin to understand me when I work with them. Luckily, because so many medical terms are Latin based, that understanding comes pretty quickly in a  Spanish speaking country like the Dominican Republic."

Two aspects of her ICHF medical team work keep her coming back for more. The first is the way the ICHF medical team members work together. She's had the opportunity to interact with the operating room (OR) doctors and nurses. "At the Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh where I work eight weeks a year, I'm entirely in the ICU. There are many extreme and unusual cases so I'm always busy and I never have time to to be an integral part of the OR team."

The relationships she builds with the kids and their parents is the second aspect. "The University ICU has 30 plus beds and the kids are moved to the regular children's wards very quickly after recovering from a critical illness. With my ICHF work, the cases are not as extreme and complicated and I'll have 5 to 25 kids over a two week period. This gives me time to know the parents and kids.  I actually get to see the kids get well. I hold the babies and play with the older ones. It makes me a better doctor and it's just totally rewarding!"  Dr. Dennis has found that no matter where she travels, she finds that people are just like those in the United States. They want their kids to be healthy and happy. They want the best for them.

When asked why she will continue to do this work, Dr. Dennis makes it clear, "If not me, then who will do this work? My husband is an emergency medical physician, and we both feel our roles should be ones of service, as we have both been given so much."