By Mark Couch
(May 2015) In the year before David Murphy entered University of Colorado School
of Medicine, he was a Fulbright Scholar in the Dominican Republic where
he worked with people with HIV/AIDS.
This spring, as a
fourth-year medical student with an eye on a residency in emergency
medicine, he is publishing a book about the lives of the people he met
while in the Dominican Republic. After Match Day in March, he returned
to the Dominican Republic with 200 copies of the book to distribute at
clinics where he worked and to the participants featured in the book.
Spanish-language book, Voices from the Bateyes: Personal histories of
Persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in the Dominican Republic, is a
compilation of oral histories from the people he met while there.
a batey is a rural, company town or village housing sugar cane
workers,” Murphy says. “When the sugar industry collapsed in the late
1990s, it was devastating. These are communities that were marginalized
to begin with and had a tenuous grasp on social services before they
lost their livelihood.”
The voices in the book are haunting. They tell stories of abuse and fear, redemption and hope.
talks about leaving home at 14 and being forced to work as a
prostitute, eventually becoming infected with HIV through unprotected
sex. She describes returning to see a 21-year-old man who she thinks may
have infected her.
“He apologized and asked me to forgive him
because he was HIV positive back when he had told me it was something
else,” she says. “And I had never seen such a death before, in which a
person is reduced to nothing more than teeth with all their hair out and
Tami has survived and now works as an HIV community
health worker. “I have many people in my care, and I have helped lift
up everyone—young and old alike,” she says. “I tell people that they can
retire from the street life and take care of themselves.”
stories are amazing, powerful, unique and provide another perspective
about living with HIV,” says Therese Jones, PhD, associate director of
the Center for Bioethics and Humanities. The Center’s Arts and
Humanities in Healthcare Program is providing a scholarship to Murphy
to help fund his publication.
The goal of the book is to reach
people with HIV and AIDS to help them through the psychological process
of acceptance, which is a fundamental step to successful medical
treatment. There are an estimated 1,200 persons living with HIV in the
Dominican province of Monte Plata, yet just 650 receive care in the
province’s four HIV Units.
Murphy plans to distribute the books to
clinics and health staff in the Dominican Republic, to the Provincial
Ministry of Health, and the larger community, including the United
Nations HIV office.
While in medical school, Murphy has continued to work internationally.
his first and second year, Murphy spent six weeks in a public emergency
department in Cape Town, South Africa, as part of the South African
Emergency Medicine Foundation, led by David Richards, MD, an assistant
professor of emergency medicine who practices at Denver Health. While
there, Murphy delivered a baby in the field and helped treat cases of
meningitis, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS. He says he also witnessed
innumerable trauma and community assault causes that “left an indelible
impression of daily physical and social struggle in the townships.”
Murphy says he wants to pursue emergency medicine because it is “a field that turns no one in need away.”
profound relationships that I formed while conducting these
interviews in the Dominican Republic taught me that the duration and
frequency of interaction is less important than being fully present,
caring, and cultivating trust in every encounter.”