Nicholas Comninellis, INMED President & CEO, may be available for speaking engagements and workshop leadership. Please contact INMED to explore potential opportunities.
Dr. Comninellis’ most in-demand presentations include:
Controversies In Short-Term Medical Missions
View the TED Talk video “Controversies in Short-Term Medical Missions”
Abstract: Short-term medical missions are a very popular phenomena among North American healthcare professionals. Beyond a gesture of compassion, however, serious questions may surround the professional ethics and actual effectiveness of this practice. Short-term medical missions is often further complicated by concerns connected with limited time commitment, inadequate resources, unfamiliar cultural context, and lack of continuity following departure. A key element in assuring that such missions are ethical, effective, and culturally relevant is national partnerships: cooperation with healthcare professionals, healthcare institutions and/or educational institutions in the host nation. Such partnership may involve provision of materials, instruction, and/or special services – always in collaboration with, and ideally, under the direction of national leaders. Another key element is continuity of commitment over a period of years, especially when such periods of service are of short duration.
View the AT Still University classroom presentation “Controversies in Short-Term Medical Missions” made for UNICEF and DOCARE.
View the full video presentation of “Universal Donors” made at the INMED Humanitarian Health Conference.
Abstract: What is your blood type? Type O Negative is the “universal donor” – the most rare and also the most useful of all blood types. Healthcare professionals possess skills to protect and restore health. But like people contemplating blood donation, they often hold back from service to those in greatest distress. Often expressed is fear over personal safety, finances, children’s education, and family life, unfamiliar disease, cultural barriers, and inadequate medical resources. The presentation addresses these fears with the aim of aiding healthcare professionals themselves to become universal donors on behalf of the world’s most poor.
The Unsung Power of Applied Learning
Abstract: INMED President Nicholas Comninellis describes his early failure on location in southern Africa to apply what he learned at the Walter Reed tropical medicine school to actual patient care. This failure to launch from didactic learning to performance is pervasive throughout education. The key element to successful transition is often practical, real-life experience, ideally in the presence of a dedicated mentor. INMED, the Institute for International Medicine, makes full use of this model, combining online and in-classroom education with on-the-field service-learning experiences with INMED facility resident in twenty-five developing nations.
Launching Your International Healthcare Career
Abstract: Desire to assist the poorest of the poor is a wonderful virtue. But many profound decisions stand between well-meaning healthcare personnel and actual service of this nature. Some of these decisions are professional in nature, including selection of a specialty, mission-specific training, a particular community to serve, a sending organization, language learning, one’s time commitment, and concerning one’s service modality, be it primary patient care, teaching, research, leadership and/or public health initiatives. Other decisions are more personal in nature, including how to manage financial debt, nurture family relationships, and protecting one’s physical health. Decision-making is a skill that can be developed with discipline over time, and result in successful and satisfying launch of one’s international healthcare career.
The Power of Exemplary Role Models
Abstract: Personal role models can profoundly impact our values and aspirations, resulting in exception inspiration or devastating iniquity. Nicholas Comninellis explores the power of role models and how these impact development of social movements, citing illustrations from his personal life and the genesis of INMED. Deliberate selection and rejection of persons to emulate and with whom to partner is a vital life skill. Dr. Comninellis concludes with a challenge for personal integrity and action on behalf of the world¹s most forgotten people.
From Inspiration To Mobilization
Abstract: It is human nature to defend. Whom will you defend? It is human nature to step up to a challenge. What challenge will you choose? Today we witness marvelous progress in healthcare: robotic surgery, miracle cancer drugs, vision correction procedures. Yet on the parameter of our communities both in North America and abroad live multitudes of people who are barred from these innovations because of poverty, illiteracy, culture, and distance. Healthcare professionals often possess a virtuous desire to serve the poorest of the poor. But how do we move from feelings of inspiration to deliberate steps of action? This presentation takes advantage of popular stories of individuals who move from inspiration to mobilization.
From Rescue To Resilience
Abstract: Disasters and epidemic disease continue to mark this new century: Haiti’s earthquake, Pakistan’s flood, measles’ blight, and Zimbabwe’s cholera. The heartening response from many is to donate personal time, talent, and treasures to provide rescue and assistance to those in distress. But even well intentioned efforts have their limitations. We must move beyond the rescue mentality and pursue those interventions that actually build more resilient communities. These interventions often include economic development, improvements in basic literacy, and proven effective health interventions. We must also invest into equipping local healthcare personnel to provide for their own.
Serving The Forgotten
Abstract: Political, ethical and healthcare leaders agree on the imperative of health for all people. While enormous gains have been made towards this end, today there exist substantial numbers of ‘forgotten people’ that suffer preventable diseases and receive little if any healthcare. These forgotten people often include immigrants, minorities, urban and rural poor. In their defense, healthcare leaders must become effective advocates – rallying a variety of professions and disciples on their behalf. Healthcare leaders must also learn to effectively prevent and treat the most often forgotten, but significant disease among such people, including vitamin A deficiency, obstructed labor, and Chaga’s disease. Action must also be taken to effectively mitigate and respond to disasters among forgotten people – ones that claim many lives but receive little regional or international attention.
Fighting The Diseases Of Poverty
Abstract: Poverty and health are intimately associated. The nations of poverty are also home to the lowest life expectancy, greatest child mortality, and highest number of preventable deaths. Three interventions are especially effective. First, we must promote economic development, for history demonstrates that as overall income increase so does health status. Second, we must stand against military conflict, for in nations so embattled over 90 percent of deaths are from hunger and infectious diseases. Third, we must advocate those specific interventions that have proven most effective against the leading diseases of poverty, though these interventions may be inconsistent with the standard medical paradigm.
Health Through The Eyes Of Culture
Abstract: Many culturally influenced behaviors have important health consequences. As we better understand culture, we can become more effective health promoters. “Culture” itself is an integrated system of learned behavior patterns. Most cultures contain a broad mixture of both “scientific” and “traditional” viewpoints. Cultures can be effectively understood in terms of their perspectives on human nature, the relationship of humans to nature, their sense of time, their perspective on activity, and influence of social relationships. To effectively promote health in a new cultural context, one must apply the most basic principles of cultural adaptation: Observe, Understand and Adjust. Frequently say to your national colleagues, “Help me to understand why…” Asking questions maintains self-respect and creates ownership. Improvement in health behavior is a process built on trust and relationship. This presentation includes case studies and interactive use of role-play to enhance the learning experience.
Low-Resource HIV Care
Abstract: HIV remains the leading cause of Years Of Life Lost in the world’s poorest nations. Effective means are available to both prevent HIV infection and to effectively treat HIV and AIDS. However, bias and lack of dedicated leadership often obstruct these life-saving interventions from reaching the most marginalized communities. We healthcare leaders must redouble our efforts to overcome these barriers. The ABCs of HIV prevention continue to be an effective message. HIV screening is now more accessible than ever. Prevention of Mother-To-Child HIV transmission is particularly effective if adequate detection and appropriate management are provided. Treatment of HIV and AIDS is facilitated by simpler protocols and more widely available trained personnel.
Tropical Medicine Case Studies – Nonsurgical
Abstract: Effective management of disease in low-resource settings is particularly challenging for practitioners accustomed to both diseases of excess and abundant healthcare resources. Clinicians do well to begin by first understanding of the epidemiology of the particular community. What, for example, are the most common causes of fever or diarrhea? Armed with a general understanding of probabilities, clinicians then must apply astute attention to history and physical examination, with minimal reliance upon laboratory or radiological evidence. Treatment options must also be modified to conform to local and often extremely limited resources. Finally, clinicians must be keen to use each patient care opportunity to both hone their skills and to transmit those skills to others. This presentation includes interactive use of case studies to enhance the learning experience.
Tropical Medicine Case Studies – Surgical
Abstract: Effective management of disease in low-resource settings is particularly challenging for practitioners accustomed to both diseases of excess and abundant healthcare resources. Clinicians do well to begin by first understanding of the epidemiology of the particular community. What, for example, are the most common causes of done infection or abdominal pain? Armed with a general understanding of probabilities, clinicians then must apply astute attention to history and physical examination, with minimal reliance upon laboratory or radiological evidence. Treatment options must also be modified to conform to local and often extremely limited resources. Finally, clinicians must be keen to use each patient care opportunity to both hone their skills and to transmit those skills to others. This presentation includes interactive use of case studies to enhance the learning experience.
Tropical Fever Evaluation
Abstract: Evaluation of fever among patients in a tropical setting is one of the most daunting clinical challenges, stemming from unfamiliar causes, unusual causes, limited laboratory and imaging, cultural misunderstanding, time pressure, and out of practice clinical skills. A rationale approach to febrile tropical-locale patients begins with knowledge of local epidemiology to assess particular risk. Next, clues can be gleaned from the history, such as fresh water exposure (schistosomiasis) and painful eye movement (dengue). Physical exam may reveal pathopneumonic signs like conjunctival injection (leptospriosis) and Koplick’s spots (measles). Laboratory and imagine are usually very limited, but access to the proliferation of rapid tests holds much promise. Most importantly, results of basic malaria tests and neutrophil count can readily rule in or out numerous causes of tropical fever. This presentation includes case studies and interactive use of role-play to enhance the learning experience.
Low-Resource High-Risk Maternal Care
Abstract: Surviving motherhood is a genuine concern. Maternal and newborn deaths make up the 6th and 7th leading causes of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) lost in the world’s poorest nations. Post-partum hemorrhage (PPH), eclampsia-preeclampsia, abortion complications and failure to progress are the leading maternal causes of death. Major modes of decreasing maternal morbidity and mortality are to reduce family size and to provide quality obstetric care at time of delivery. Breastfeeding is the most natural, available contraceptive, with multiple additional benefits. Management of PPH requires immediate evaluation and intervention, particularly against atony. Basic newborn resuscitation should be universally available. Healthcare professionals must advocate for provision of these essential services to safeguard mothers and newborns.
Emergency Obstetrical Skills
Abstract: 98 percent of maternal deaths worldwide occur in low-resource communities, and are almost entirely preventable. System-wide improvements in contraception, prenatal care, and obstetrics hold promise to improve such outcomes. Equipping of midwives and community health workers is an important component. Everyone who delivers babies much recognize the most common obstetrical emergencies, and be able to management appropriately. This session includes use of manikins and hand—on skills to increase competency in treating post-partum hemorrhage, shoulder dystocia, and breech presentation.
Refugee Care – Displaced But Not Forgotten
Abstract: Today’s world has more refugees than at any time since WWII, owning to both natural disaster and human conflicts. The ability to prevent and respond to the needs of refugees and internally displaced people is now becoming an essential competency for international healthcare personnel. This session addresses the common conflicts surrounding care for complex human emergencies and the principals of both acute relief and of longer-term resolution or resettlement. This presentation also makes use of interactive role-play and small group exercises will enhance the learning experience.
Health Leadership for Low-Resource Communities
Abstract: The Health field is in crisis for lack of wise leadership, yet leadership skills are rarely taught. Health leaders in limited-resource communities must design and implement health systems that are both effective and efficient. A “health system” is a design for effective interventions based on health needs and on available resources. A variety of interventions may promote health but are either inappropriate or inefficient. To design a health system, first assess needs and resources. Second, plan appropriate interventions. Third, assure these are carried out. This three-step process is cyclical and continuous. Four levels of Interventions are commonly considered: population-oriented, disease oriented, primary care, and hospital care.
Appropriate Technology For Global Health
Healthcare is chronically in crisis – especially in low-resource settings. Resolution demands skilled leadership, with attention to health systems. One ethical principle for developing successful health systems is effective use of limited resources. This includes appropriate application of technology. What principles can be used to determine whether a technology is appropriate or not? Reliability, sustainability, and acceptability. Some often appropriate uses of technology in low-resource health systems include rapid diagnostic tests, mobile health information systems, ultrasound imaging, and adherence to use of WHO & National Essential Drugs. Partnership with local partners and hosts is also essential. Their guidance greatly increases the likelihood that technology will be used appropriately. This presentation includes interactive use of role-play to enhance the learning experience.
Global Health Education – Multiplying Skill Capacity
Abstract: This session addresses the palpable issues of global health education, both to enhance the skill of North American personnel being sent and the skill of local hosts whose capacity needs to grow. Competency-based learning is emphasized throughout, with focus on effective teaching and learning that is participatory, interactive, and case-based. Realistic outcome measurements will be suggested, with adoption of locally-relevant criteria. Reference is made to the experience of INMED, with 600+ graduates over 12 years. During this presentation, participants will create their own framework by which to assess and/or design their own unique global health education programs.
Health Of You The Traveler
Abstract: Contrary to most perceptions, the leading causes of death among Americans who travel abroad are injuries and chronic diseases that they were suffering at the time of travel. Advanced preparation includes attention to injury prevention, adequate control of chronic disease, and measure to prevention infectious diseases. The latter include routine vaccinations, special vaccinations, emergency medications, and measures to prevent insect-borne diseases like malaria and dengue. Travel insurance and identification of reputable local medical care providers should be arranged prior to departure. Travelers are wise to also consider their own mental health in advance.
Please contact INMED to explore any of these presentation options.
Dr. Comninellis’ biography is available here.