Photo: Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock

Doctors Without Borders: A Conversation With Kathryn MacLaughlin

by Peter Davison May 19, 2008
Kathryn MacLaughlin, Recruitment Officer for Doctors Without Borders, talks about working with villages in South Sudan, and the new perspectives one gains through DWB.

Kathryn MacLaughlin is the US Field HR Outreach/Recruitment Officer for Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres. She is based out of the New York office and has been with MSF since 2003.

Her assignments have taken her to China during the SARS outbreak, South Sudan, and Liberia. Her last postings were in Guinea-Bissea dealing with a cholera outbreak and Ethiopia for a measles vaccination campaign.

Kathryn has an adventurous spirit that has seen her backpacking through Chile and Argentina, working in Hong Kong and Honduras, and vacationing in Thailand and the Philippines. She considered MSF after working in the private environmental/civil engineering sector for about 8 years.

“The professional experience with water and sanitation, the hands-on knowledge of health conditions in developing countries, and the time in my life, made MSF a perfect fit,” she says, noting that MSF was also attractive because it is an independent humanitarian organization, with no religious or political affiliations with its work.

Not your typical day at the office

Kathryn recalls working with villages in South Sudan. The group had to expand a dirt airstrip and create several “roads.” But In order to bring in a truck and a drilling rig by plane they had worked for weeks with no mechanical help, all by hand, machetes and wheel barrows.

She figures “a car hadn’t been in the area for about ten years. It was the first truck some of the children had ever seen in their life!” When the plane arrived, it was welcomed by several thousand villagers, all of whom had turned out to see the truck and the drilling rig.”

Working with MSF?

MSF is strictly an emergency medical organization. All logistics and construction work are done to support emergency medical services. Jobs are on the medical side but there are non-medical positions available as well.

The most up-to-date information including job postings, recruiting process, and recommended readings can be found in the working with us section of the MSF website.

The best piece of advise from Kathryn’s perspective is to understand yourself: “You really have to know who you are both personally and professionally to do field work with MSF. As a field worker, you hit the ground running, usually in unstable and trying conditions; your focus has to be completely on the people you are serving.”

Kathryn notes that after each assignment with MSF you walk away with a new perspectives on the world. “China was interesting because of its deep cultural history and how it so starkly in contrast with ours (group vs. individual); Sudan was fascinating for its isolation and the strength of the people; and Liberia was intriguing because of the people’s true hope and determination to rebuild their country after war. I have learned humility, humility.”


For more, please visit: Doctors Without Borders

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