Volunteer Surgeon: Flavia Alberghina
Flavia Alberghina is an orthopedic resident from Sicily, Italy, who is volunteering at our CURE Malawi hospital for six months. She fell in love with pediatrics the moment she stepped into the hospital, realizing medicine wasn’t only related to athletics. “I used to think medicine was just for athletes; that it was limited. When I experienced CURE Malawi, it changed my concept of medicine completely,” she shared. “I remember dressing my small wounds when I was younger or doing an injection for my grandmother, but I didn’t really understand the physical healing that took place.”
After rowing as a sport since the age of eight, she became fascinated with the movement of the human body. “Bones are something that you can touch, that you can feel. It’s the most manual subject of medicine,” she expressed. “I also love how you can touch and see the skeleton. I didn’t want to study something that looked abstract. It was practical. I could see it, and I could fix it!” Flavia exclaims with a smile.
Flavia’s heart grew fond of treating children when witnessing their bravery and transparency during treatment. “They complain if there is a real pain, not because they just want to complain. This is the kind of honesty I like so much,” she stated.
While sharing about finding CURE, Flavia told us, “I was at a conference in Rome for the European Congress of pediatric orthopedics in 2016, and there was a small CURE table with Lola Raji. At that time, I had already been to South America, Tanzania, and Ethiopia, and the desire to come back to a low resource setting was still in me,” she told us. “Now having skills in medicine, I knew I wanted to go back and work as a doctor. When I saw the CURE table labeled as pediatric orthopedics in an underdeveloped country, I knew that this was the one!”
After collecting her flyers and filling out an application, Flavia was off to CURE Kenya. She spent a month there in 2017, working alongside other staff members and volunteers. After a transforming visit to our CURE Kenya, Flavia knew she wanted to come back and CURE fit her passion for pediatric orthopedics perfectly!
“While I was in Kenya, I met a visiting surgeon from Belgium, Dr. Nick, and he showed me a picture of the kids with frames in Malawi. He told me, “If you are interested in severe deformities corrected by external fixators, CURE Malawi is the right place.” Flavia knew that CURE Malawi was where she was visiting next.
Flavia’s time in Malawi has left her speechless. “Malawi showed me the things I could not see in Europe with much more complicated and difficult cases.” She’s grateful for the fellowship program at CURE Malawi because it allowed her to do more than she expected.
“It’s very emotional if I think about it,” Flavia told us. “Two moments stand out in particular. One was when I saw McDonald walking with crutches for the first time, and the other was when I saw Manuel eating nsima with his hands.” Flavia got choked up as she continued, “It was very, very emotional for many reasons.” Tears began to run down her cheeks, “These are the reasons why I chose pediatric orthopedics. My job is really useful, and I am so happy to be here. I was not happy just because I completed a successful operation. It is nothing about me. It is because “this little boy can now use his hands,” or “Wow, he’s walking! I haven’t seen him walking in my five months being here!”
There was a moment of reflection and silence, then Flavia said, “This kind of healing makes it all worth it, to look at them with two frames and always smiling, nothing can fill your heart more. These are some of the deepest, most emotional and impactful moments, and will be something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
CURE Malawi staff will miss Flavia terribly and loved having her as a part of the team, especially in the operating room. Dr. Nicholas Lubega says, “It will be like functioning without my left arm. Flavia has been a great addition to the hospital and is a very hard worker.” Malawi was blessed with a humble and kind fellow that not only views every child as a patient but as a beloved individual.
Reflecting on her time at CURE Malawi and the spiritual growth it has personally brought her, Flavia says, “It’s so different here. You can really feel in every corner of the hospital that people are working together for the same purpose. It is so special. I have never found it anywhere else in all the places I’ve been.” She goes on to share, “You can fall into a system of selfishness in many other working environments, but here you completely forget about all of that and fuel off of the selflessness around you.”
Flavia’s next stop will be working at a small Italian hospital in Ethiopia, and she plans on making visits to our CURE Ethiopia hospital often. CURE Malawi hopes she finishes her studies soon and comes back to join them as a pediatric orthopedic consultant!