Anna Boorse Doubeni ’90: Medical Educator

Perhaps you took the same Gordon sociology course Anna Doubeni did—or was it anthropology? Perhaps you read the same article about an aid agency digging a well in the center of a village in sub-Saharan Africa to provide clean water, only to return a year later to find women still walking a mile to draw water from a river. In days packed with focused work, that walk was their chance to socialize. They were loath to give it up.

“Why didn’t they sit down with the people and get that figured out? That way they could have put the well a mile away,” says Anna (at right in photo). “From then on, my interest was in understanding communities, and why communities do what they do—particularly public health things—so when you’re doing a public health intervention, it’s culturally relevant, not just the best-engineered.”

An M.D. and an associate professor of Clinical Family Medicine and Community Health at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, she also works with the American Academy of Family Physicians’ Foundation medical faculty development program in Haiti, and Penn’s global health fellowship in Guatemala. In Haiti, where there are only two family medicine residencies, the overarching goal is to help get another started, and equip them all to better train new doctors. She delivers continuing education lectures for physicians, and works with residency faculty about how to teach and evaluate their students. In Guatemala, Penn’s partnership with a small hospital in the Lake Atitlan region offers Penn family medicine residents an opportunity to both learn and teach with an emphasis on capacity building and partnership development.

“For a low-income country, one of the challenges in health care is that people who are able to pursue medical education will often leave to pursue that in another country. Studies show that if they leave, there’s a higher chance of them not coming back. So there’s an enormous brain drain,” she explains. Penn’s programs are designed to “help those countries develop their own physicians, within their countries.”

Anna and her husband Chyke, who also teaches at Perelman, live in Philadelphia. At Gordon she sang in the Women’s Choir, but these days her vocal performances are limited to the choir of their tiny church and, as she puts it, in the car. Their three children range in age from 9 to 21.