Alberta doctor's solo expedition in Siberia aims to improve remote health care

An Alberta doctor is on a solo expedition in Siberia, visiting remote communities that may not have seen a physician in decades.

Dr. William Hanlon is travelling from the southern tip to the northern tip of Lake Baikal, the world's oldest and deepest lake.

"I'm here to go for basically a long walk," Hanlon told CBC Radio's The Homestretch Tuesday.

He's raising awareness for his organization, Basic Health International Foundation, and intends to reach three remote villages.  

The doctor from Cochrane, Alta., is walking about 10 hours a day, pulling a sled loaded with everything he needs.

By the time his month-long trek is done, he'll have travelled more than 700 kilometres.

Challenging conditions

"Time is a factor. I've got a limited time on my Russian visa, and the going has been tough this year because of the extra small broken ice on the lake," Hanlon said.

Another challenge he's faced is navigating through whiteout conditions.

Hanlon sleeps in a tent each night, close to the shore but still on ice. He's not bothered by the cracking noises the ice makes, but admits it was an unnerving sound the first time he heard it.

"It's a very alive place," Hanlon said.

Appreciative locals

Hanlon's foundation is trying to develop more telemedicine and electronic health, to help reach residents in remote areas.

"I think we can do a lot more to bring medicine, to improve the health care in remote places than is currently being done," he said.

Hanlon has previously worked in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tibet.

"There's obviously sometimes some personal risk, but I think the rewards are well worthwhile. The people that we visit are highly appreciative and very much need the help," he said.

Follow Hanlon's journey on Basic Health International Foundation's website.  

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With files from The Homestretch