Dr. Anthony Charles discusses his meeting with former President Clinton in Malawi

Last week Anthony Charles, MD, MPH, Director of the UNC Malawi Surgical Initiative (MSI), met with Bill and Chelsea Clinton at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in the Malawi capital city of Lilongwe. Dr. Charles is also Adult ECMO Program and Associate Professor of Surgery. Please read this brief Q&A with Dr. Charles.

Dr. Anthony Charles discusses his meeting with former President Clinton in Malawi click to enlarge Dr. Anthony Charles, at left, meets former President Bill Clinton in Malawi.
Dr. Anthony Charles discusses his meeting with former President Clinton in Malawi click to enlarge L-R: Dr. Anthony Charles, Dr. Anna Tyson, Chelsea Clinton, and Dr. Melanie Sion.

The MSI supports the surgery department at KCH through clinical care, educational support, and research. Recently the MSI opened a 31-bed unit at KCH, which has already resulted in improvements in burn survival. The MSI is close to opening a new operating room located within the Burn unit. Here is a brief Q&A with Dr. Charles about the MSI and the visits from Bill and Chelsea Clinton:

Q: Why has UNC chosen to build a surgical initiative in Malawi?
Dr. Charles: Malawi was the natural choice for MSI. UNC Infectious Diseases was already there, they had already built a large research and clinical infrastructure in Malawi focused on infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS), and they recognized the burden of surgical diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. We were invited to Malawi by Myron Cohen and he has championed our cause and been our greatest supporter and advocate.

Q: How will the new operating room impact the Burn unit at MSI?
Dr. Charles: We believe it will facilitate the timely surgical care of our burn patients.

Q: What was it like meeting former President Clinton?
Dr. Charles: It was surreal. He was very engaging and was delighted to hear about the work we are doing. Chelsea was particularly interested in knowing how things have changed since six years ago when MSI first started.

Q: Were you able to speak with President Clinton about the project?
Dr. Charles: I had a few minutes with him….I thanked him for the work being done by the Clinton Foundation and reminded him that surgical care cannot be ignored, especially trauma and burn needs in Malawi. There are not enough surgeons in Malawi and UNC is supporting the residency training program.

Q: Are there any plans to work with the Clinton Foundation in the future?
Dr. Charles: We have made contacts with the Clinton Foundation and it is our hope that their interest in our work leads to a fruitful UNC-Clinton Foundation collaboration.

The MSI trains and financially supports Malawian residents. UNC residents rotate through Malawi at one-year intervals to participate in both educating and operating at MSI. Dr. Charles works with UNC faculty colleagues Carol Shores, co-director of the MSI, and Jonathan Samuel. The MSI is being supported by the UNC Department of Surgery, The Jaycee Burn Center, and a gift from Johnson’s GlobalGiving.