BOISE - Dr. Chuck Washington is already a hero for the life-saving work he does day in and day out as an ER doctor at St. Luke's in Boise. But, he also has a passion for helping others outside the hospital walls, and that passion takes him across the globe.
For two weeks each year, he leaves the comforts of home and travels to Thailand to help people a world away. He trains the healthcare workers who are trying to save lives across the border in war torn Myanmar.
"They work in areas where there are no doctors or nurses," Washington explained. "There's really a lack of resources or healthcare facilities. They really don't have options besides these medics."
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been involved in a civil war for the last 60 years. Washington teaches emergency and trauma medicine to people out on the front lines.
For his most recent trip, he recruited some of his co-workers from St. Luke's: Scribe Nick Thompson, nurses Claire Kragen and Anne Wardle, and Dr. Deric Patterson.
"The volunteers are paying their own money, they are taking time away from their family and their work," Washington said.
"Until you get over there it's really hard to really understand what these medics are doing," he added. "And how they are doing stuff that in many cases I would not feel comfortable doing these procedures in a jungle hut. It's eye opening."
The medics - both men and women - work in what are called black zones, dangerous areas where Washington and expert medical teams are not allowed.
"It's definitely challenging and it's hard to put people in that environment and see what the medics are dealing with," he said. "These medics are working in a place without electricity, without oxygen."
The medical supplies the group brings along are donated by a local group in Boise called Hands of Hope. Washington and the St. Luke's crew poured their hearts into long days. They know how important the training is.
"Either they perform these procedures and take care of these people, or the person will likely die."
Washington says that's what keeps him coming back. But he is also a husband and father, so leaving isn't easy.
"I leave my wife and two small children so it's a challenge, but it's very rewarding and it drives me through the year and kind of reemphasizes why I went into the medicine in the first place," he said.
You can learn more about the black zones, these incredible medics, and hear from Dr. Washington on Thursday, May 4. He will host a screening of the documentary film, "The Black Zone" at The Flicks. After the movie, there will be a Q and A with him. Tickets are $15.
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