An amazing doctor named David Walmer, set out to help a local OB-GYN in Haiti in detecting cervical cancer and came up with a clever and cheaper device for observing a female's cervix. This is what I believe every doctor should strive for and the doctor I envisioned becoming before my detour in aviation.
Thanks to early detection (and helped by the vaccine for HPV, or human papillomavirus), the mortality rate for cervical cancer in the U.S. is relatively low. Not so in developing countries, where it kills almost 250,000 women every year. Haiti has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the world. Walmer knew that a national screening program would save countless lives, but deploying colposcopes across the impoverished nation was not feasible. They’re expensive, they require reliable electricity and they’re too big to be easily carted around to the ramshackle clinics throughout the country. A battery-powered, portable and affordable alternative was needed.
“I was having more fun helping the Haitians than I was at my real job,” he recalls. “You could operate and save a woman’s life, and every time you came back to Haiti, she would come to the clinic and hug you and introduce you to her family members.”
Finally, at the beginning of September 2009, 13 years after Walmer put together his first makeshift gadget, 10 field-test models were ready. They weren’t much more than black metal tubes and lights and wiring, but Walmer says he didn’t stop smiling for a week. One scope was shipped to Malawi, another to Argentina and a third was earmarked for Kenya once doctors there were trained in colposcopy; it would go to a clinic for women in Masai villages, where polygamy increases the risk of cervical cancer. Others landed in Pakistan and, hand-delivered by Walmer, in Haiti.