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TRANSFORMING CARE: Filmmaker Aims to Educate Care Workers Globally

Harvard Grad Deb Van Dyke Heads Non-Profit Media Project

March 15, 2017       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Nurse Practitioner Deborah Van Dyke on the job in Nigeria.

Filmmaker Deborah Van Dyke, who earned a master's degree in Public Health from Harvard University, leads a new non-profit that uses video to teach critical skills to health workers around the world.

Van Dyke is one of four daughters of former Bay City banker Cliff Van Dyke, now a resident of Benzonia near Frankfort in Northern Michigan.

Ms. Van Dyke, who earned her MPH degree in 1993, underwent an epiphany in 2008 while working with an international aid organization, Medecins Sans Frontiers, (Doctors Without Borders) that operates rural health clinics in South Sudan.

The light of a brilliant idea flashed after she was awakened late one evening by a woman pounding on her door. "Her visitor, a local nurse, breathlessly explained that a birth in a nearby medical tent had gone wrong. The pair grabbed a flashlight and raced through the dark to intervene," related an article in the Harvard Public Health report entitled "A Picture of Health: Alumna's instructional videos transform frontline healthcare globally."

"The baby was blue, floppy. He wasn't breathing," Van Dyke told the magazine. "The doctor and midwife trying to resuscitate him were doing chest compressions and suctioning the infant's mouth and nose." What the Sudanese workers hadn't realized was that a simple procedure was all needed to save the child's life. "Van Dyke stepped in with a bag and mask -- a device used to squeeze air into a patient's lungs -- and positioned it securely on the child's face. After a few seconds, he was breathing."

As the newborn gained consciousness, Ms. Van Dyke thought: "All over the world, so many lives could be saved if health workers could learn critical skills through the teaching power of video."

She soon founded the non-profit Global Health Media Project (GHMP), dedicated to creating educational videos for caregivers in the developing world. Topics include from how to insert an IV to examining a placenta to determine if a newborn has sepsis.

Other potential topics include animations that help workers identify germs of TB, malaria, HIV and even the common cold.

In collaboration with Yani Goodman, animator noted for the film "Waltz with Bashir," Van Dyke and her team produced "The Story of Cholera," explaining how cholera can be prevented by sterilizing drinking water and improving sanitation. Since its completion in 2012, the film has been translated into about 30 languages. Another film is entitled "The Story of Ebola."

The videos that GHMP produce are used by UNICEF, Save the Children, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other aid groups. The videos have been shown on television in places like Ghana and Namibia, among 225 countries, and downloaded by more than 2,000 groups worldwide.

One possibility Ms. Van Dyke is considering is delivering video lessons to practitioners via mobile phones.

GHMP survives on donations, grants, and volunteer work; even so, Van Dyke is considering expansion to include satellite office in developing nations to create easier access to patients and film sites.

Ms. Van Dyke switched from forestry, her first college degree, and became a midwife. "I realized if I could do anything, I wanted to give women a more humanized birth experience," she said. After midwiving on the Texas-Mexico border, she completed an accelerated nursing program at Yale University and became a family nurse practitioner in Waitsfield, Vermont, splitting her time with assignments abroad.


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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at

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