Pharmacist fills need for health care abroad Interfaith project ships supplies to Azerbaijan

July 11, 1996|By Traci Johnson Mathena | Traci Johnson Mathena,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

When a prescription needs to be filled, pharmacist Don M. Padgett is on the job -- usually on a plane.

His latest assignment took him to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, in the southeast region of the former Soviet Union, where the United Methodists Committee On Relief (UMCOR) is planning to open eight clinics this month.

In Baku last month, Padgett met the first part of what is expected to be a $1 million shipment of medicine and medical supplies donated to the UMCOR Emergency Distribution Project in the Republic of Azerbaijan.

"We are also training medical personnel how to administer the medicines and use the supplies. The object here is to work this into a self-sustaining system," said Padgett, pharmaceutical services director for Interchurch Medical Assistance (IMA) in New Windsor.

He returned from the region east of the Caspian Sea July 1.

The June shipment included 12 medicine boxes, each containing 17 essential drugs and medical supplies for day-to-day treatment of common ailments. These medications and tools can treat common illnesses in a population of 1,000 for three months.

"In the boxes, there is everything from bandages and burn ointments to antibiotics," said Kathleen Campanella, a spokeswoman for the Brethren Service Center, where IMA is located. The clinics are being established to serve refugees and internally displaced people, many of whom fled into the woods outside Azerbaijan to escape the fighting between that republic and Armenia, Padgett said.

"They lived in the woods, and many of them died," he said. "Those who didn't are living in these camps, in buildings where there are as many as seven family members living in one room.

"I met these kids whose mother had died. They fled into the woods, and the grandmother had kept them alive," Padgett said. "The little boy had an earache, but they couldn't buy medicine. But in the medical box, there is a medicine that would take care of that earache."

The supplies and medicines are needed to stock the clinics that UMCOR is putting in eight camps in and around Baku, Padgett said.

Padgett and IMA have catered to the medical needs of populations around the world.

Padgett has helped distribute a drug that eased the suffering of 20,000 East Africans with river blindness, a disease that causes rashes, itching, skin depigmentation and eventually blindness.

Since October, Padgett has made two trips to Haiti, two to Tanzania and one trip each to Zaire and Azerbaijan.

Padgett said his background, which includes 20 years of working in retail and hospital pharmacies in Texas and four years of mission work in Zaire, has given him varied experiences.

"In this particular job, you need to draw from every single one," he said.

Information on this and other IMA projects: 635-8720.

Pub Date: 7/11/96

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