When Dr Mohd Lutfi Fadil Lokman was a medical student in Universitas Padjadjaran in Bandung, Indonesia, he lived among the poor communities of Bandung for three years.
This triggered his desire to focus on healthcare for the poor.
“As a medical student, I observed that poverty and illness always go hand-in-hand, and tackling one solves the other.
“We must do more than prescribe medications to patients and then send them back to the poor environments that made them sick in the first place,” said Dr Lutfi, 30.
Together with his classmate Dr Wan Abdul Hannan, 28, they founded Hospitals Beyond Boundaries (HBB), a non-governmental organisation registered under the Malaysian Societies Act 1966, in 2012.
HBB is dedicated to improving the health of vulnerable communities through sustainable healthcare efforts.
Starting the endeavour in South-East Asia, HBB’s most notable project is running a community clinic and a maternity hospital for the poor in Cambodia.
These health facilities are run as social enterprises by local youths who are employed as community health workers to complement the work of HBB doctors, nurses and other health professionals.
Dr Lutfi’s family and friends were supportive of his initiative, although he had already been working as a doctor in Malaysia, and running HBB meant longer working hours.
“My parents were the ones who first thought up the idea to build health facilities to help the Cham minority in Cambodia,” he said. His wife Dr Kamaliah Jalalonmuhali, 27, who is expecting their first child, has always been supportive of HBB.
HBB aims to help anyone who lacks access to healthcare if they are too poor to afford it.
“While keeping to this broad and ambitious goal, we stay focused by helping one community at a time, with our first project being to help the Cham minority of Cambodia,” said Dr Lutfi.
The majority of the Cham people are still poor and depend mainly on foreign aid in terms of education and health.
“Most of the hospitals built by foreign NGOs lack cultural competence when treating an ethnic minority, presenting a barrier to quality care delivery, which ultimately leads to healthcare disparities.
“We aim to be different by minimising the cultural differences between patients and healthcare providers,” Dr Lutfi added.
From small health-screening programmes, HBB promoted itself on social media to gain more financial support and trust from the public.
HBB then branched out into mobile clinics, and after three years, they gained enough funds to buy a piece of land in Cambodia in 2015.
Dr Lutfi encourages more people to volunteer in society-beneficial organisations that fit one’s passion and purpose.
After handing over the title of HBB Chief Executive Officer to Dr Wan Abdul Hannan, Dr Lutfi is currently doing his post-graduate study at Harvard University in the United States.