Floating Doctors is a non-government organization (NGO) located in Bocas del Toro, Panama since 2011. They provide mobile medical clinics to 24 NgÃ¤be communities on a quarterly rotating basis. Support for these clinics comes from Panama’s Ministry of Health, partnerships with various local businesses, financial and in-kind donations, and 85% from medical and non-medical volunteer programs. In response to volunteer physicians recognizing and expressing concerns about the mental health of their patients – both in presentation and as interference to best medical outcomes – Floating Doctors formed a collaboration with Dr. Kristina Brown, Professor and Chair of the Couple and Family Therapy Department at Adler University, in 2017. Working with Founder and CEO of Floating Doctors, Dr. Ben LaBrot, they developed initial plans to incorporate the provision of mental health into the programs offered through Floating Doctors. After many conversations and preliminary learnings about the organization and the region, Drs. LaBrot and Brown initiated a doctoral couple and family therapy internship in 2019. The internship included a research project to assess mental health literacy and needs. Concurrently, they also developed a pilot implementation of the inclusion of mental health consultations over a two-week period in summer 2019. Dr. Brown brought seven students to Panama to volunteer in the mobile medical clinics. This presentation will include a narrative of the creation of Floating Doctors, rationale for the collaboration with Couple and Family Therapy, and a description of both the research project and the piloted mental health consultations. The presenters will introduce participants to the indigenous NgÃ¤be peoples and share their experiences and learnings highlighting the mutual strengths of collaboration. Future directions and plans for the permanent inclusion of a mental health program as part of Floating Doctors will be reviewed.
- Understand about the unique medical and mental health needs in the local NgÃ¤be communities served by Floating Doctors that also reflect relatively common predicaments for similar populations around the world
- Identify complimentary mental health interventions to typical medical presentations seen in the mobile medical clinics
- Experience the learnings and challenges faced by the collaboration between Floating Doctors and Couple and Family Therapy