11/25/2014 02:23 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2015

Giving the Gift of Health to Women and Children

A couple of months ago, I was invited to a Jeffersonian Dinner by a non-profit organization, Possible Health. While I had heard of Possible, I knew very little about their work and was intrigued at the opportunity to learn more. At the same time, I thought it wise to know what I was getting myself into by accepting the invitation. A Jeffersonian Dinner is an intimate dinner of eight to 14 people who sit at one table and participate in one conversation that is framed by everyone answering an opening question.

Our dinner question: "When did having access to health care, either for yourself or for others, make a transformative impact on your life?" As a primary care physician, I reflexively chose a story from the early days of my training. Other guests who were also health care workers shared perspectives from their professional experiences. A few shared incredibly intimate stories about their own health or the health of loved ones. Afterwards, I realized that my own life was profoundly transformed by access to health care. After a prolonged labor, my mother required a cesarean section during delivery. Under different circumstances, she would have either died in childbirth or given birth to a stillborn and been left with irreparable damage such as a fistula. Thirty-five years later, I found myself in the same situation as my mother. The dinner not only made these connections explicit, it helped me fully appreciate the impact of health care access on my existence.

This week, families across the United States will come together to celebrate Thanksgiving. Most dinners will have a "Jeffersonian" moment where everyone will participate in one conversation answering a version of the question "What are you most grateful for?" For many of us, the answer will be health. Some of us will confess that we take our health for granted. Others will pledge to improve their health (after the holidays!) as part of 2015 resolutions. Hardly anyone will express gratitude for access to health services, like an ambulance or an emergency room, because we rarely give it a second thought. Yet millions of women and children around the world struggle to access even the most basic health services.

On December 2, we will commemorate Giving Tuesday, a movement to galvanize giving back through online donations. Donations through crowdfunding platforms such as watsi or kangu, that partner with organizations like Possible, can give the gift of health to women and children. These platforms connect funding to a specific person. Someone like Saraswati, a 20-year-old pregnant woman in Nepal who is having her first baby at the end of December and who wants her baby to grow up to be a doctor.