In 2008, Dr. Ellen Jo Baron, sponsored by the Fondation Merieux, first came to Cambodia to present three week-long workshops on basic benchtop diagnostic microbiology. Dr. Jim McLaughlin, then working with the US Centers for Disease Control in Phnom Penh, assisted her in these workshops during which time it became clear that much more was needed to build capacity in diagnostic microbiology. Together they formed the Diagnostic Microbiology Development Program (DMDP). Bylaws were written and DMDP was registered as a non-profit organization in California. Funding originally came from the Google Foundation via the Global Health Security Initiative and the World Health Organization. With the collaboration of the Fondation Merieux, we established a diagnostic microbiology laboratory in the Kampong Cham Provincial Hospital where Ph. Nhem Somary was the very capable, motivated laboratory chief.
Larry Buck was the first of many expert bench microbiologists from the US and the Philippines to volunteer with DMDP. Larry got the laboratory in the Kampong Cham hospital up and running. Then Joanne Letchford, a VIDA volunteer and now the DMDP Cambodia Country Director, continued to develop the microbiology laboratory for 18 months.
From that beginning, DMDP established a diagnostic microbiology laboratory in the Battambang Provincial Hospital. Sivly Ray, a medical technologist then working in the Stanford University laboratory, volunteered to provide bench training to laboratory technologists in Battambang even before the lab was fully equipped and functioning. Sivly provided the additional advantage of speaking Khmer. Subsequently, we set up diagnostic microbiology laboratories in the Takeo and Siem Reap Provincial Hospitals. The success of these laboratories has depended on the capabilities of the laboratory chiefs, all women and all of whom are trained pharmacists who have taken the three year-long DES course in laboratory medicine at the University of Health Sciences in Phnom Penh. Additionally, the contributions of expert bench microbiologists from the US, Australia and the Philippines were willing to devote their expertise and many months of their time to providing side by side bench training that has been critical to developing capacity in diagnostic microbiology in Cambodian government hospitals. The volunteers include: Larry Buck, Ginny Quenzer, Sivly Ray, Vladimir Buron, Merlyn Cruz, Julie Papango, Luke Tennent, Colleen Allen, Janet Maleski, Jerri Morello, Vasundhara Rangaswamy, Laurie Elder, Angelo Caon, Mary York, Tessa Wylie and Pam Smith.
Click here to read Jim McLaughlin’s article about the work of DMDP in Cambodia, published in the September 2012 issue of Microbe.