MedShare abroad: No Poker Face

So, I have been told by many people over the years that I do not have a very good “poker face”… meaning that I convey my emotions clearly on my face pretty much at all times.
Well, during last Friday’s final site visit in Guatemala, my “no poker face” expression certainly showed a mixture of frustration, disbelief and sadness.  Eben and I found almost 75% of the boxes from a shipment that arrived in Guatemala in November 2011 sitting in a warehouse gathering dust rather than being put to good use in the hospital that ordered them.
Over the course of several hours, we determined that while certainly no one was trying to cause harm or be malicious, there had been a serious breakdown in the on-the-ground distribution process.
Given the significant health care resource needs we saw first-hand in prior days’ visits, I struggled to control my outrage that life-saving supplies had been sitting idle for over 8 months.  After several attempts at settling myself with deep, yoga-like breathing and working to assemble at least some version of a neutral expression, I worked with our in-country partners to figure out an efficient plan to quickly get the supplies distributed where they can be used.  We also started the analysis of what went wrong so that we can learn from this mess and avoid similar issues in the future.
While I certainly hadn’t planned on having my last day of this visit in Guatemala be such a troubling one, I am extremely grateful that we discovered the problem.  Otherwise, those supplies could have been gathering dust in the warehouse indefinitely.  Also, these types of “uggghhh” moments can certainly keep an organization humble and make sure we respect the complexity of the work we do.  Distributing U.S. medical surplus to developing countries is easy to explain in a casual converation, but extremely difficult to actually do in a high-quality, efficient manner.  We routinely do a good job at MedShare but we certainly aren’t perfect.
At the end of the day, I may be a dreadful poker player, but I do have the confidence that we can fix this problem and continue to do even better in the future.
Thanks for reading!

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