I was visiting a shelter for people with no place else to go on the Thai-Burma border when I encountered a woman who looked as if she was in her late 60’s, but I suspect that she had lived not that many years. She had lived too many hard years and it showed in her face, her eyes. I couldn’t know the stories she had to tell because she had lost her ability to connect with the world – her mental faculties had given out trying to make sense of the horrific reality of the trauma in her life. There were others like her at that place, a safe-house on the Thai-Burma border. Nobody really knew what happened to them, but they had arrived there used and abused beyond what they could handle, and their brains quit trying. Fortunately for these people, they had found care and safety in which to live; but many others have no such place.
This woman and countless others like her were the beginning sparks of my interest and work in addressing injustice through health and medicine. As a senior medical student I spent two months working in a small mission hospital on the Thai-Burma border. Although at that time “Human Trafficking” was not a term commonly heard, it was still a reality for millions of people. During that time of caring for refugees, migrant workers, legal and illegal immigrants, probable trafficking victims, and prostituted women and children, the problem of the complete lack of human rights for so many people for seemingly no reason became very real and very personal. Just as astounding was the lack of awareness and attention by the West to such atrocities.
I became RELENTLESS. I am committed to addressing injustice by compassionately applying my skills as a physician to the needs that exist around me. For over a decade, I have touched the lives of refugees, abandoned children, people living with HIV/AIDS, and trafficked people. There is a unique niche for physicians, to work with this special population of trafficked people and sought out opportunities to serve people trapped in exploitation.