I don't know too much about suffering. Thanks to the fates, I've managed to avoid the most horrific kind.

But I do have an imagination and I can extrapolate. I was on an away rotation during my fourth year of medical school, housed in a dreary basement apartment when I had my first personal encounter with influenza. The pain and fatigue were wicked and the 15ft trip to the bathroom seemed impossible. I was incapacitated and alone for about 3 days. But I had an understanding professor and was absolved of any duties so just wallowed in some of the most intense physical misery I've known.

Now that is a really weak example in the pantheon of suffering. What haunts me even now, though, is what if I had a child or children? What if I had no home? Or an employer happy to fire me? Or miles to travel with threats on my trail? This relatively tame episode of suffering allowed me the tiniest window on to what I just saw in Uganda and the DR Congo.

Some argue that suffering is an education or an opportunity for growth. This is usually the refuge of the well-to-do and the indulgent opinion of those who have survived their suffering. Most suffering is overcome by collective action. Think community, sewer systems and vaccination. As solitary humans we are weak and vulnerable and at our worst so let's identify those who are suffering and put an end to it and their isolation.

- Aaron Scott, MD