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Winter 2000
Doctor Without Borders
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Emine wasn't the only staff member to endure such tragedies. One pediatrician, Violeta, had left Kosovo after a Serb stabbed her daughter. Her daughter was pregnant at the time, and lost the child. The two sought refuge in neighboring Macedonia, but Violeta's husband, an outspoken lawyer who stood up for the rights of ethnic Albanians, stayed behind in Pristina. After several weeks, Violeta stopped hearing from him. When she got back to Kosovo, people told her they had seen him lying dead in the street. But his body had disappeared.

A week before I arrived in Kosovo, his corpse had finally been found in the woods outside Pristina. A funeral was held my first week there. Violeta's torment, however, didn't end there: Her husband's killer remained free. He called her apartment several times, she said, and told her to send her son out onto the family's balcony. She should look, said the caller, for the red dot of a gun sight on his forehead.

As I finish my final year of residency, Kosovo is never far from my mind. What we did there this summer was really just a start, and the people there still need so much help. But already I see new crises springing up around the globe; Kosovo is being moved to the world's back burner. Now that it's off the front pages of newspapers, I worry that money for rebuilding is drying up, too.

I now have no doubt that I want to work in the international arena, helping develop health care where it is really needed. Although I always thought I was interested in this field, I had heard how frustrating it could be. People had warned me that the politics and funding problems could be difficult. And these are real issues, undoubtedly. But I learned this summer that the rewards are far greater. Even if I never return to Kosovo, its memories - and lessons - will follow me wherever I work in the world.


2005 The Regents of the University of California