February 2014 Archives

Mike Taylor (PL3) settles in to his 2 months with MAP Bolivia

Greetings from Bolivia, land of Lake Titicaca, lots of smiling children and a fully functional integrative health clinic in the heart of Chilimarca & Cochabamba.

After a couple of weeks settling in I have found some time to share my experiences with you all. So far, I have been splitting my time at the clinic and the nearby primary school while living just up the hill from the compound in a beautiful and simple bungalow.

MAP Bolivia is a truly unique organization that embodies what it means to be integrative in health. Located in Chilimarca, a low income suburban community about 20 minutes by car outside of Cochabamba, the "Centro de Salud Integral Chilimarca" boasts a community level clinic with emphasis on prevention and early detection of disease, a primary school, community library, and the office space for "Aprendiendo de las Diferencias" or Learning About the Differences. This latter program is a community based initiative aimed to better integrate community members with physical and mental disability into the homes, schools and public spaces of Chilimarca by working to improve understanding of disease, reduce stigma and normalize diversity in its numerous senses.

All of these programs are run on a minimal budget funded primarily by MAP International with assistance from the Bolivian federal government. MAP is an organization founded by a Chicago born christian philanthropist in the 50s that has expanded to a half dozen sites around the world. MAPs roots are in donation of medications donated from pharmaceutical companies, as well as bought with money donated by other organizations and individuals. 

Although MAPs collaboration with the local government largely guarantees the clinic's survival, several newer projects are funded by outside NGOs. One such venture is C.U.B.E. which stands for Centro Una Briza de Esperanza or A Breeze of Hope. This affiliated organization is run by Dr. Jose Miguel´s daughter Brisa and her husband Parker and aims to provide safe shelter for victims of sexual abuse and their children, as well as raise awareness to the problem on a local, national and international level. I had the pleasure of providing well child care one day to over 30 children involved in this program. If you are interested in learning more they have created a lovely website with opportunities for internship (I believe predominantly in law) here: http://www.abreezeofhope.org/index.html

My role here so far has been predominantly as a provider at the clinic and well child care for children in the school. We have slowly been working our way through all the grade levels checking anthropometrics and treating low weight or height with vitamin supplementation and antiparasitics. In the afternoons I have been working in the clinic where I´ve seen numerous common childhood illnesses, namely lots of colds and diarrhea. I´ve had the chance to confirm the etiology of a couple of the diarrheal illnesses under the microscope which has been fun.

Finally, for my academic project, I brought about 100 books at Dr. Jose Miguel´s request (courtesy of Reach Out and Read and Dr. Howard) and have been working slowly but surely to give them all away. I designed a questionnaire for the families to get a baseline on attitudes and habits surrounding reading to children. The initial results do seem to show that there is a lot of work to be done regarding getting books into the homes earlier and educating parents on their value for early cognitive development. I have heard from the teachers in the school that a couple of the children absolutely love their books and bring them with wherever they go. Hopefully, as the parents see this enthusiasm, it won´t be difficult to get books into every household regardless of age.

With Carnaval coming up next week, well child care has taken a turn for the hilarious with whole classrooms of kids covered in confetti and wearing a variety of masks and costumes (spider-man seems to be a favorite). Pictures to come as soon as I can figure out how to link my phone to the computers here!

Posted on behalf of Nate Herr (PL2)

Beth Thielen invited me to try rafting with her this past weekend. (Beth is in the UMN Med-Peds program and is here working on the adult side of Mulago hospital on the ASTRO-CM trial with Dr. Boulware).  

With a few recommendations we decided to go with Nile River Explorers, an established rafting company here in Uganda.  Our raft guides, safety kayakers, etc, were all Ugandan, who have grown up into and thrived in the development of adventure tourism and sports.  Several of them, including our raft guide Juma, have competed at the international level in whitewater kayaking-- representing Uganda and Africa all through the energy of waterfalls and rapids in the backyard of their home village.

The fun and adventure of rafting with excellent guides

By the end of the day we were exhausted, sun burnt, and winded from the three times our raft flipped in the rapids. But, all-in-all we were glad to be able to experience the thrill of the Nile river rapids.  These rapids have been sequentially disappearing with each installment of hydro-electric dams on the Nile, built to fill the need of reliable electricity in a developing country. A third dam is currently being proposed and depending on the height, additional habitat, communities, rapids, and tourism economies will be displaced or eliminated.  A petition is circulating both in hard copy in communities and online internationally to encourage the building of a smaller hydro-dam that would preserve the remaining falls and rapids on the river.

Flat stretches of water were time for discussion and brainstorming

On the flat stretches between the rapids, we talked these issues of the Nile and more.  I also found out that it's hard to escape healthcare all together, even on your weekend off.  The two guys in the front of the boat were logisticians with MSF, in Uganda for a 2-week training session.  On the water and in the rafting truck we were discussing the challenges behind ensuring a cold-chain to deliver vaccines and the future promises of mHealth, the later which got me thinking-- a lot. mHealth is a broad term to describe mobile phone technology interfaced with healthcare and I see great potential for it here and elsewhere around the world.  If anyone has any experience or ideas on mHealth, please email me. It's hard to imagine future implementation research without it.

Getting a bit wet after one of those flat stretches

Posted on behalf of Nate Herr (PL2)

I've alluded to some of the pediatric clinical research and collaboration happening here in Kampala, it's really quite extensive and thorough.  I'll do my best to summarize.

Malaria has long been a common disease in the equatorial tropics.  It has a spectrum of severity, depending on the type of malaria one is infected with and the age and health of the person infected.  The most severe form of malaria is cerebral malaria which involves a patient in coma and is fatal if the malaria is not treated.  This is thought to be from the parasitized red blood cells sequestering in the blood flow to the brain or due to inflammation, the answer is not yet clear.

Earlier, the same collaboration group with UMN and Mulago Hospital, studied and compared two types of severe malaria.  One that I mentioned, Cerebral Malaria, and Severe Malaria with Anemia.  They followed the children through their illness and after they went home.  They did continued EEGs tracking seizures, neuropsych and cognition testing and found that children with anemia and no initial brain involvement with their malaria still had deficits and disability down the road.  These disabilities are a big problem in Uganda and sub-saharan Africa and already the research group here is studying to see if rehab programs can help children regain their abilities.


What is about to start is a broader look at children with milder forms of malaria to see if they also have disability from it.  In this study, blood tests will also be done to look for clues as to what is actually causing it.  Home visits and clinic visits will again follow the children after their initial illness.

Neuro Exam Photo.JPG
Ahmed, Denis (our two medical officers with the study) and Dr. Postels

Our Ugandan Medical Officers are a critical part of this.  We held a training session today with Dr Doug Postels, our Michigan State collaborator.  He lectured on the neuro exam then afterwards the medical officers practiced, asked questions, and gave much needed feedback on the forms and documentation that we've been editing and creating these last weeks.

Every day I'm learning another piece of what it takes to get good information to answer good questions for the betterment child health care.  Nothing is ever simple and straightforward and the best insight comes from looking at the problem from all angles-- with medicine being only one of the angles.

Nate Herr (PL2) tells us about The Container

Posted on behalf of Nate Herr (PL2)

This is the building we affectionately call 'The Container" because, well, it's a shipping container.  Granted, it has a few upgrades since its shipping days including a roof, windows, WiFi, a water cooler, and thankfully an oscillating fan. 

The Container.JPG

This is one of the hubs of research collaboration with Makerere University in Uganda, the University of Minnesota, and Michigan State University.  In it you'll find medical students from the UMN-- Nick Sausen is here putting together donated EEG machines to help better define EEG changes in cerebral malaria and correlate it with the neuropsych testing that's being done.  Remember Tundun Williams?  She graduated from our Peds Residency last year and has been here since on a Fogarty Fellowship working on a clinical trial regarding sickle cell disease treatment in Africa.

While there's no room for me in the container, I'm often working nearby with others in the Global Health Uganda team on their both ongoing and upstarting malaria research projects.  More on that later. for now, please take a moment and send some cold Minnesota vibes to those working in the container.
Posted on behalf of Nate Herr (PL2)

Leaving Minneapolis, I left behind a consistently cold winter. averaging temperatures in the single digits.  A day's worth of flying later, and a much more ambient temperature, greeted me in Kampala.  As it's in the 70s and 80s here. Gone are the snow banks and drifting snow, replaced by red dirt and dust that coats most everything and keeps a layer of haze across the skyline.

Red Roads in Kampala.JPG

Warm temperatures and dusty red roads weren't the only thing to greet me.  What I found in Kampala was group of collaborators from Uganda and the University of Minnesota who are working here to answer the unanswered questions of some of the most aggressive and common infectious diseases here; from cryptococcal meningitis to severe malaria. Some have been here for months, others a few years or their entire life.  As the newcomer to the team, here only for a week now, I look forward to taking it all in and helping where I can.