Two themes soon emerged after Africa Stewart began treating refugees for the humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders.
One was the universal sameness of a mother's love for her newborn child, said Stewart, an obstetrician/gynecologist.
"I see a mom doing that rapid-fire kissing to a newborn; the love of a mom for her baby does not change," she said.
The other was the ironclad rule never to let your staff see you cry.
And there is plenty to cry about.
Doctors Without Borders provides emergency medical care to refugees in conflict zones where human misery brackets lives like a straitjacket.
Before they make it to the relative safety of the camps, refugee families endure unimaginable suffering, the group says. Children are ripped from the arms of parents and sometimes killed; young girls are forced into sexual slavery. At the outset of their perilous attempt to escape, families must make painful decisions about who can flee and who must stay behind.
War and sectarian strife around the globe have combined to create the worst refugee crisis since World War II, according to the international medical and humanitarian aid organization. Conflicts such as the war raging in Syria have led to the displacement of more than 65 million people worldwide, the group says.
To bring home the full impact, Doctors Without Borders has opened an interactive exhibit on Independence Mall where aid workers like Stewart walk visitors through exhibits describing the ordeal.
Called "Forced From Home," the exhibit that opened over the weekend will be closed Monday but will reopen at 9 a.m. Tuesday and run through Nov. 13.
As political campaigns in the United States and in Europe become embroiled in debate over immigration policy, Doctors Without Borders U.S executive director Jason Cone said one aim of the exhibit - which had earlier runs in New York, Washington, Boston, and Pittsburgh - is to put a human face on a problem known to politicians and voters only in the abstract.
"We want visitors to understand why this mass migration is taking place," Cone said. "In short, we want to close the distance. This is not just a political matter, but one affecting our fellow human beings."
Doctors Without Borders expects thousands of people to visit its exhibit in Philadelphia. What they will see is a series of stations depicting, among other things, typical refugee camp tents, treatment centers for cholera and malaria - two common camp maladies - and exhibits showing objects that define refugees' existence: water jugs, cellphones, mosquito netting, and an inflatable raft for perilous ocean crossings are among the items.
Visitors are asked at the outset to choose from several dozen cards depicting family, pets, possessions and other life essentials. They are permitted to take only five.
Doctors Without Borders aid workers like Stewart, who lives in Atlanta with her family, serve as expert guides. Stewart said she first began serving on aid missions in 2011 and has been abroad five times to serve displaced groups in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and elsewhere.
She's heard her share of horror stories. Armed men who prey on refugees will shoot young children if families refuse to turn over possessions. Young children are frequently forced into sexual slavery.
"They are easier to control," she said of the children. "And if they are not easy to control, then it is easier to get rid of the bodies."
The upside is the good that you can do. Patients get high-quality medical care, and they can stay in treatment until they are ready to leave, Stewart said.
"There is no insurance company saying you have to be out in three days," she said.