not an emergency room doctor, Pam Ogor has responded to
medical emergencies around the world, most recently in
Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina and in Pakistan after an
earthquake in Kashmir.
Dr. Pam Ogor is always looking for trouble. If she doesnít find
any, it usually finds her. The diminutive doctor is a family
practitioner with Covenant Health Care System; her practice is located
at St. Michael Hospital in Milwaukee. She loves her local patients,
but given the chance to helicopter into a remote region of Pakistan or
bounce over dirt roads in Tanzania, sheíll pack her stethoscope in a
Ogor has taken her medical skills to people struck by horrific
natural disasters and Third World problems. The fall of 2005 is a
special case in point. Fortuitously, in June, she had completed a
course in humanitarian relief and disaster at the Cleveland Clinic in
Ohio when Katrina struck. With her helpful office staff, she
rearranged appointments in order to spend two weeks in September in
the ravaged area.
Starting out in Gulfport, she and another doctor worked out of
"something like a MASH truck," she says. "In Biloxi, we
worked at the Safety Administration Building, one of the few left
standing, and the neighbors cooked for us. You learn to do whatever
needs doing because there were no hospitals, clinics or pharmacies.
Oftentimes we went to peopleís homes to help; for example, we had to
get glucometers to diabetics. In a Wal-Mart parking lot, I gave
immunizations from a Humvee. In Gautier, Miss., we helped people from
a deli. The deli owner cooked for free until the food was gone."
Back home, she was just getting into her daily routine at St.
Michael, when the earthquake struck Kashmir as well as border villages
in Pakistan and India. Then Relief International, a group based in Los
Angeles, called, and faster than you can say "Whereís-my-passport?"
Ogor was on a plane out of Chicago for the 17-hour flight to
The journey from Islamabad to Mansehra was in a four-wheel drive
vehicle over hard-packed dirt roads that wound along riverbeds and
over mountain passes. Their little caravan paused frequently to let
herds of goats ó which have the right of way ó pass in front of
them. "When I was there in October, we were dealing with acute
care: shelter and food plus taking care of pneumonia and flu cases.
Some workers helped with post-trauma cases," she says.
"World Health Organization shipped in boxes of kits to us
containing everything from suture material to cases of amoxicillin.
"I never felt unsafe or threatened," she says. What she
did find unusual on arrival was the absence of women. "We were
seeing only men because women canít come out of their homes and see
a male physician."
Back in Whitefish Bay where she lives with her husband and son,
Ogor can reflect on the skills required of medical relief work in
disaster areas and explain how a girl from the South Side of Chicago
grew up to be so adventurous.
"You canít plan for a disaster. It is total chaos when all
infrastructures are destroyed and there is no organization," she
says. "The best thing to be is totally flexible. If you need to
sew someone up, you use whatever youíve got. On the other hand, from
the medical personnel perspective, itís sort of nice not doing the
routine paperwork and dictation required in a practice in the U.S. Itís
also very exciting and I get pumped up."
She credits trips as a child in the family station wagon for
infecting her with a bad case of wanderlust. At 21, she camped on her
way to New York in order to meet up with her group, Operation
Crossroads, going to Togo in West Africa. She was in Togo for six
weeks giving immunizations in remote villages. Medical studies were
completed at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Studies. But the call
of the road is never stilled for long. Since 1995, she has worked in
Haiti, Bangladesh, along the Amazon in Peru and in Nepal.
Patients sometimes call her at home, but with or without a good
nightís sleep, Ogor is at her office bright and early. Her curly
hair and slender build give her an energetic look that contradicts the
faint dark circles under her eyes; sometimes patients call at night,
more often during flu season. As she talks, itís obvious this is a
woman who is extremely happy being helpful and always ready for some
new excitement. "I have a grungy old backpack that I keep filled
so I can grab it and leave at a momentís notice. I didnít know if
Iíd be good at disaster work; after all, Iím not an emergency room
doctor, but I guess my success is that I can just roll with it.
"Iíve also learned as an American we cannot go in with an
ĎIíll save youí attitude," she says. "We must be
sensitive to other cultures and especially work to train medical
personnel within the culture so that they are able to care for
Much of her practice in Milwaukee has to do with chronic diseases
such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. She cares
for her Milwaukee patients physically and as friends. "They donít
complain when Iím gone, because they seem to appreciate what Iím
doing. I think they feel useful through me."