Cambodia Calling - A Personal Story from the Frontlines of Doctors without Borders

Author(s): Richard Heinzl


A celebrated doctor's coming of age story in Cambodia It was while in Uganda as a young and idealistic physician that Dr. Richard Heinzl finally heard his true calling: to set up a chapter of Doctors Without Borders in his native Canada. As a prerequisite to fulfilling his Medecins Sans Frontieres dream, Dr. Heinzl was sent to a war-ravaged town in Cambodia to work a year in the field. Cambodia Calling is this young doctor's harrowing personal story of setback and accomplishment in the dangerous and inhospitable environment of a remote Cambodian village. His compelling narrative details how he confronted his own illness and self-doubt, as well as the reality of treating those who could not be saved. Richard Heinzl, MD (Oakville, ON, Canada) founded the Canadian chapter of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), the Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian relief organization. He studied medicine at the University of Toronto, Harvard, and Oxford.


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From "Winnipeg Free Press":

This non-fiction entry is an alluring chronicle of one young doctor's experience as a member of a Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) team assigned to the impoverished village of Sisophon, Cambodia, during the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge civil war in the early 1990s.

This is not the typical memoir of heroic doctors braving war zones to save lives. Ontario-based Richard Heinzl, founder of the Canadian chapter of Doctors Without Borders, takes the reader past the expected sphere of the crisis in humanitarian aid.

He provides an honest and personal assessment of the challenges and professional obstacles that confronted him in Cambodia and within Doctors Without Borders.

Heinzl's coming-of-age story begins in Uganda in 1985. As though he were scripting an international movie drama, Heinzl shares the sense of being a fish out of water as he walks "into a foreign country in plain view, a 22-year-old medical student from the other side of the world on elective in Africa."

So begins Heinzl's journey of self-discovery. He is looking for a taxi to take him from a Kenya-Uganda border crossing near Tororo along the Jinja-Kampala highway to work at Mulago Hospital with Liz and Don Hillman, Canadian pediatricians running a program called the Child Health and Maternity Program (CHAMP).

The story is compelling. Heinzl provides exceptional details of how he confronted his self-doubt as a newly trained doctor questioning his intent and commitment to humanitarian aid. He successfully captures his inner turmoil through his dialogue with his mentors, colleagues and friends. The reader becomes a true witness to Heinzl's experience.

Thethread that ties his account together from Uganda, back to McMaster University in Hamilton and on to the Caribbean, Amsterdam and finally Cambodia in 1991 is Heinzl's exceptional ability to shine a light of all who affected him along the way.

It is as if you are sitting in very comfortable chair by a fire in the dead of winter listening to him share his exciting and life changing experiences.

You come to know Heinzl and those connected to him, be it his mentor Dr. Jim Anderson, one of the professors at McMaster medical school in the 1980s who successfully trained doctors by the Socratic method, or his experienced, laid-back Dutch medical partner, Rob Overtoom, who knew what to do and how to get it done in Cambodia.

Heinzl captures that sense of joy that comes when one goes beyond merely sharing one's knowledge to sharing one's self with the people in the Cambodian community that he briefly called home.

His writing enables you to feel the sweat running down his body as he shares the joy of the down time with like-minded companions drinking imported beer over ice after a long day in the hospital.

The reader also learns of the frustration associated with establishing the Canadian chapter of Doctors Without Borders. Heinzl makes sure the reader realizes that politics is evident in all forms of human interaction including respected humanitarian aid organizations.

The book will not only be enjoyed by those interested in understanding the crisis of humanitarian aid agencies around the world but also by those seeking an excellent coming-of-age memoir by a doctor who should consider a second calling as an author.

Doug Edmond is a Winnipeg educator who recentlyvolunteered for Habitat for Humanity in New Zealand.

(c) 2008 Winnipeg Free Press. All Rights Reserved.


Author Note. Maps. PART I. Chapter 1: Kenya-Uganda Border near Tororo / May 1985. Chapter 2: The Grand Hotel, Jinja Uganada / May 1985. Chapter 3: The Jinja-Kampala Highway / May 1985. Chapter 4: Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda / May 1985. Chapter 5: The Hillman's Home at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda / June 1985. PART II. Chapter 6: The Home of James E. Anderson, Hamilton, Canada / July 1985. Chapter 7: McMaster University Medical School, Hamilton, Canada, and Springs, Grenada / August 1985. PART III. Chapter 8. Amsterdam Airport, Schiphol, Netherlands / July 1991. Chapter 9: MSF Holland / Belgium Compound at Siem Reap, Cambodia / July 1991. Chapter 10. Angkor, Wat, Siem reap, Cambodia / July 1991. Chapter 11: The MSF Blue House, Sisophon, Cambodia / July 1991. Chapter 12: The Hospital, Sisophon, Cambodia / July 1991. Chapter 13: The Public Market, Sisophon, Cambodia / August 1991. Chapter 14: Sisophon, Cambodia / September 1991. Chapter 15: The Lotus Restaurant, Sisophon, Cambodia / October 1991. Chapter 16: Svay Chek, Cambodia / October 1991. PART IV. Chapter 17: The Ministry of Forestry and Fisheries, Sisophon, Cambodia / October 1991. Chapter 18: The Train Station, Sisophon, Cambodia / October 1991. Chapter 19: The High Road, Sisophon, Cambodia / October 1991. Chapter 20: The Second Floor of the MSF Blue House, Sisophon, Cambodia / November 1991. Chapter 21: The Balcony at the MSF Blue House, Sisophon, Cambodia / November 1991. PART V. Chapter 22: The Low Road, Sisophon, Cambodia / November 1991. Chapter 23: National Road #6 from Sisophon to Phnom Penh / December 1991. Chapter 24: The Cambodiana Hotel, Phnom Penh, Cambodia / December 1991. Chapter 25: Pochentong International Airport, Phnom Penh, Cambodia / December 1991. Chapter 26: L'Hopital Provincial de Banteay Meanchey, Sisophon, Cambodia / January 1992. Chapter 27: Sisophon, Cambodia / January 1992. Endnotes. Reference for the Endnotes. Selected Bibliography for the Endnotes. A Note on MSF Canada. Acknowledgments.

General Fields

  • : 9780470153253
  • : John Wiley and Sons Ltd
  • : John Wiley & Sons Ltd
  • : March 2008
  • : 218mm X 151mm X 23mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Richard Heinzl
  • : Hardback
  • : 610.92
  • : 259
  • : illustrations