Carol Culshaw

Organisational Development

Cambridge Yangon Trauma Intervention Project
Reflections on the Review visit

“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of our exploring shall be to arrive at the place where we started and to see it differently.” T.S.Eliot

As I return to ‘the place where I started’ I am only just beginning to process my responses and reactions to all that was so generously shared, all the warmth and hospitality that we received and all that I have seen in Yangon – a real tribute to all that has been achieved and learned by everyone involved in the partnership. As my colleagues and travelling companions have articulated I feel hugely privileged to have been part of the team and the review process.

The purpose of our visit was to support the monitoring and evaluation activity of the work undertaken by the teams of volunteers from Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH). These colleagues from CUH, have generously volunteered their time, on behalf of Addenbrooke’s abroad, over the last two years. Working with partners in Yangon, volunteers delivered a series of training programmes for doctors, nurses and physiotherapists to develop skills in order to support improved care for orthopaedic trauma patients in Yangon General Hospital.

It was especially helpful, to be part of such a dedicated and diverse group. The range of perspectives, the imagination and vision, together with the varied expertise, focused determination and strategic awareness of local systems from the Yangon colleagues, made for the most powerful partnership I have seen in a very long time.

At the core of the team was a strong sense of connectedness to AA, its values, its ways of working and the very innovative NGO culture. The team was open to learning, responsive and thoughtful in their reactions to all that Myanmar had to teach us!

The innovative work done, the teams of volunteers equipped and empowered to share skills and more especially, to the constant refrain of our partners. From the beginning of the week, to the very end, a commitment to the Principles of Partnership was absolutely palpable.

The warmth and kindness shown by our partners in Yangon, the local colleagues, the interests and concerns shared, the common agendas reminded me that although we so often focus on the differences between our worlds when we look at global health or any 2 form of aid and development. In fact, I am reminded of Jo Cox and her commitments, so eloquently offered, in her maiden speech in our own parliament, “We have much more in common than that which divides us.”

For me returning to this place, to my context, leaves me with time to think about our Myanmar partners and their context- the pressure of work in the Department of Pathology, the challenge of keeping staff motivated, working with equipment that needs to be maintained and replaced. The rector of University Medicine (1) juggling the roles of clinician and rector and sharing concerns about education and the development of the next generation of doctors.

All these concerns echo the concerns I hear from the clinical leaders I work with in the NHS. I have learned masses and feel as though I have been away for much more than five days. Despite the inevitable exhaustion after two long haul flights in less than a week, a packed programme, the demands of cultural adaptation and challenges inherent in working in such a different environment, I feel inspired and paradoxically refreshed as I return to the familiar.

My learnings are many and are still revealing themselves. In particular, I am impressed with and challenging myself to think further about the Principles of Partnership.

The Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET) have identified eight principles which offer a structure for us all to measure not just what we do, but how we behave in going about our work and contributions, whether for Addenbrooke’s Abroad, CUH, the NHS or any other organization concerned with collaborating for improvement. For my own part I intend to pin the list to our kitchen noticeboard and measure my partnerships against these criteria!

After just five days in Myanmar and in the company of a really very bright motivated group of people on all sides of the partnership. I return to my world feeling energized, reflective, focused on participating and contributing. T.S.Eliot’s words seem to appropriately describe my reactions. I can only begin to imagine the impact that longer more extended contributions by your colleagues from CUH will have on their own mind-sets and potential for reflection – a really very excellent leadership development opportunity for anyone willing to take on the challenge I am sure!

With much appreciation and a great deal of admiration for everyone involved.

Carol Culshaw