Doctor travels to South Sudan to provide medical care

David Silbergeld in South Sudan. (Photo courtesy of David Silbergeld)

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

A local family doctor spent three weeks this winter working with patients in South Sudan.

Dr. David Silbergeld is originally from Seattle, but has spent the past four years in Alaska and the last nine or 10 months in Kodiak.

He says he traveled to South Sudan in January to work with a program Dr. Jill Seaman has been running for over 30 years. Seamen splits her time between Africa and Bethel, Alaska.

Silbergeld says they treated a variety of tropical disease, including leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease spread through sandfly bites, and tuberculosis.

But his job was not limited to medical care.

“People rely on Dr. Seaman and this project for basic necessities like food and soap, and oftentimes she or one of us are drawn away from clinic or other responsibilities to help provide services like that or get people certain things that they otherwise have no access to.”

He explains he worked alongside one or two other medical staff, and their resources were pretty limited.

“We have some hand tools and all of that, but in terms of getting any more extensive services such as getting an X-ray or anything like that, all of those people have to be sent out of country in fact.”

He says the closest thing the area has to a hospital is a set of tents that Doctors Without Borders operates from, and Seaman’s group also partly relies on tents.

“There is a building that was built many years ago for the program that is quite infested with bats and some other rodents, so we use that for a place to prepare meals and to eat those meals, but otherwise, in terms of where we’re actually sleeping, it’s in tents outside in a fenced-off courtyard.”

Silbergeld says he plans to fly back to South Sudan in October and hopes to return at least once or twice a year.

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