Care Across Continents: UW Health Neurologist Takes His Knowledge Abroad

As a young man, Douglas Dulli, MD, dreamed of joining the Peace Corps. That dream never happened, but his work as a volunteer doctor in impoverished Central American nations over the last eight years has more than made up for it.
"It's absolutely a passion with me," says Dulli, a UW Health neurologist. And to hear Dulli tell of his experiences and view his photos from Honduras and Belize, there is no doubt how much the annual trips mean to him.
Some people might have quit after Dulli's first foray into sharing his expertise abroad. He was accepted in 2000 through MEDICO, a group headquartered in Texas. "It sounded like a heck of an adventure," he says.
Arriving in Honduras, the "totally green" Dulli survived a hair-raising ride to a mountainous village, and was immediately ordered by the local physician to get to work. Patients were waiting.
"I'm a neurologist," Dulli recalls thinking. "It was nothing like I had envisioned." But he saw 30 patients that first day, then 70-75 patients per day for the remainder of his stay. He slept in a sleeping bag on a concrete floor, waking up to find rat droppings all around him.
"I was scared to death. I didn't know what to expect," says Dulli, "These people were so incredibly poor, it was the hardest I've worked in my whole life." And he was hooked.
Dulli usually travels to Honduras in the fall and Belize in the spring each year. He says that going to the mountains to share the very simple lifestyle of the people is a wonderful thing.
"It really gets to the core of medicine when you strip away all the machinery," Dulli says. "You realize what a gift it is to practice medicine."
Dulli also believes the work he does is a powerful teaching tool for medical students, a chance to experience medicine as it was practiced before technology. "There is so much to be gathered from doing medical missions," he says.