Activist fights red tape and inertia in Greek public health system

Odysseas Voudouris, president of Doctors Without Borders for five years, and currently president of the Regional Health System of the Peloponnese (PeSY), is a humanist and visionary who sees himself as fighting a relentless battle against vested interests in the health sector. In PeSY, he says, «hospitals are becoming more friendly to patients and are developing new activities.» After working for many years in the French health system and being involved in humanitarian activity since 1985, Voudouris has lived in Greece since 1991. He combines the profession of specialist surgeon and director of Athenian clinics with his humanitarian work. The latter has included laboring in urgent surgery missions in war zones around the world, organizing camps, clinics and schools in war-torn villages, and agonized attempts to save lives in bloodstained shantytowns and ruins. In March 2001, Voudouris accepted an offer that suddenly changed his life. At a time when non-governmental organizations «were becoming the victims of their own success,» he chose to look into the chaos of the Greek health system for what he calls «the tremendous forces for renewal that are eager for the opportunity to act.» He dreams of creating a «third sector» to form a bridge between humanitarian and state welfare.