Dr Tim Crocker-Buqué

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights"

Medecins Sans Frontieres at the Royal Society of Medicine

Originally published 12th September 2011

Last week I had the great pleasure of attending the inaugural screening of the RSM Global Health and Human Rights Film night, in collaboration with the humanitarian charity MSF

The film screened was “Living in Emergency” a film produced by MSF themselves, following the experiences of some of their doctors working on the front line in Liberia (a trailer of which I have included below).

Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders from MSF on Vimeo.

This was a hard hitting documentary, with no glossing over the uglier aspects of humanitarian work on the frontline, especially in a country emerging from 15 years of civil war without a functioning health system. It showed the highs and lows of working in the field, from improvised emergency trepanning to the every day stresses and strains of managing an impossible patient load in impossible circumstances.

One of the most interesting aspects was that the film was made at all. It was exhausting, gruesome, stressful and heartrending to watch. It was hardly designed to encourage people to apply to work with MSF – it really didn’t look like any fun at all. Many of the Doctors in fact appeared significantly damaged by the experience. But perhaps that’s the point. If you’re going to head to the frontline of humanitarian work, in fragile states, with desperate need for healthcare – better that you’re prepared, and know what’s in store. 

The screening was followed by a panel discussion, chaired by Sir John Holmes, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, including Marc Dubois, Executive Director, MSF, Dr Phillip Du Cros, Head of Manson Unit MSF and Dr Christoffer Van Tulleken, Patron of Merlin and television presenter. The discussion covered many of the issues raised in the paragraph above, but also provided some more positive notes on the benefits of humanitarian work. Unfortunately many of the questions were asked by some more experienced members of the audience, and there was a notible lack of questions form any budding humanitarians. I wonder whether they were all a bit shell shocked. 

If you are considering humanitarian work, then I would highly recommend you watch it. It may well change your perspective as to whether MSF is the right organisation for you to work with. 

I’d also recommend attending some of the other events at the RSM coming up in November:

Friday 4th November“So you want to be a relief worker”, full day course (quite expensive).

Monday 21st November, “The John Hunter Lecture: Does Western medical aid to Africa really work”, By Lord McColl (surgeon, past Secretary of State for Health, trustee of Mercy Ships). 

And the next Film night, Thursday 24th November, screening “TRIAGE: Dr. James Orbinski’s Humanitarian Dilemma.”

As a last thought… included below is the drinks voucher, for the networking afterwards, issued as part of the £5 entry fee:

Perhaps a touch inappropriate…

I’d welcome your thoughts as always,


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This entry was posted on 01/05/2012 by in Global Health.
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