Dr Darren Walter is the online programme director and is Senior Lecturer in Emergency Global Health at the Humanitarian Conflict and Response Institute (HCRI) at the University of Manchester. Darren is also a consultant in Emergency Medicine at Wythenshawe Hospital.
Coming from a healthcare background, Darren describes how the multidisciplinary nature of HCRI allows him to advance out of his medical comfort zone. Darren reflects that his colleagues allow him to connect with a much wider spread of disciplines: “They’re an integral part of HCRI and they are all equal parts of the wider mission.”
Reflecting on the difference from his hospital role, Darren explains how it is refreshing to discover different perspectives from HCRI. “They have significantly influenced my approach and my attitude towards some of my research and my thinking,” he says. Darren explains how his interactions with colleagues at HCRI have influenced his work in Africa.
In 2010, Darren began working with the Gulu University in Northern Uganda to develop a trauma education system to train medical professionals in the area. Darren explains how while visiting, he needed to adapt the Western-style trauma training to suit their situation.
In Uganda, Darren recognised that there was no ambulance service which made emergency care extremely difficult. He acknowledged that they needed a system-wide approach which led him, together with the Ministry of Health, to develop the concept of the Ugandan National Ambulance Service.
Darren’s work on improving international emergency medical care continued when he joined the WHO Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs) project. This began in 2010 with the aim to improve the quality and accountability of international emergency medical teams who are deployed to disasters.
The turning point, Darren explains, came after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, which lead to no real government or sovereign oversight of groups responding to the crisis. This caused variable levels of medical care because there had been no standards set.
Subsequently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) outlined standards and created training packages for international partners and NGOs who wished to deploy medical teams to help them be accredited. “The systems are being rehearsed, the systems are better, hopefully we will be on a continued improvement trajectory,” he reflects.
In his role as lecturer, Darren uses his experiences with international emergency medicine to inspire his students. “I share some of my experiences both professionally and personally and that seems to strike a chord.” Darren incorporates pictures and videos in his teaching. He reflects how theory is really important but “something has to get in your soul and drive you.”
Darren tries to keep a balance of staying up to date with his hospital work, while also keeping focused on his work within HCRI. In the future, Darren wants to make his roles sustainable and fulfilling in order to create something that will make him feel proud. “I can’t do it all, but I can be a part of the team of people who do.”