The Inspiring Way One PA Has Made a Big Difference

January 16, 2015
Stephen H. Hanson, PA-C

We are often so overwhelmed with our everyday practice problems that it can be difficult to remember the bigger picture. Here's a reminder.

I first became aware of Julia Uliano when she received the AAPA Paragon Award for Humanitarian PA of the Year at the 2009 American Academy of Physician Assistants Conference. She is the founder and director of The Dream Project, which serves the needs of orphaned children in Pemba, Mozambique.

I was intrigued to learn more about Julia’s commitment to tirelessly helping some of the most underserved children in the world. Her work began in India, where she opened a home for orphaned children that is now run by local staff, and recently added a school. Following the success of that program, she began a sponsorship program for a local ministry for children living on the streets of Brazil.

In Mozambique, the AIDS epidemic has left tens of thousands of children homeless and living on the streets. Established in 2006, The Dream Project provides these children with fresh water, food, medical assistance, education, vocational training, and a safe place in the community to call home, with a supportive and loving environment.

The vision of The Dream Project is to "pay it forward" through enabling and encouraging children to serve as future leaders in their communities and their country. By employing a model that incorporates community members and encourages sustainability, Julia and her team are not simply making a difference in the world through healthcare, education and support, but are empowering future generations to build a stronger global community.

The problem of orphaned children in the world is staggering. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), there are over 150 million children living on the streets of the world. There are more than a million children in the United States who are classified as homeless. These figures can seem daunting, with many barriers preventing lasting and stable fixes. However, I’m counting on people like Julia to lead by example and show us that we can make a difference in a meaningful way.

In addition to housing and support, Julia is a licensed PA who provides medical care to the children and members of the community. She also hosts elective medical rotations for PA students and has orchestrated groups of PAs to come and host medical mission trips to serve those in need.

Julia and other healthcare providers working so diligently remind us that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. In underserved communities across the world, these small ripples change not only the lives of the children in the programs, but also change the lives of the people and providers who connect with them.

All of us who work in healthcare sacrifice each and every day to care for those less fortunate than ourselves. We find ourselves at times overwhelmed with the problems we confront in our own realm, and don’t have the resources and reserve to think about, let along impact the problem of global poverty and child homelessness. I find it useful in these situations to focus on what is possible, and not what is impossible.

Physicians and PAs who are dedicated to making an impact in global service are paving the way for future leaders of our country and the world. I take my example from Julia, and approach this problem one child at a time. There are many opportunities for healthcare providers to serve abroad and I also encourage others follow her example and utilize our education and skills to make the world a better place where we can.

This blog was provided in partnership with the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

What are some ways you have used your skills as a healthcare provider to create a better world outside of your practice?