Virginia's medical specialists supporting colleagues in 90 countries
Papua New Guinea is the third largest island nation in the world, located in the South Pacific, sharing a border with Indonesia. Fewer than 14% of its 10 million people live in cities. Many are farmers from traditional villages, speaking more than 800 indigenous languages, and they have just five doctors to serve every 100,000 people. That’s why one couple had to paddle a canoe for two days to get their sick baby to a hospital, but – in a matter of seconds – the local doctor who diagnosed anemia could reach out to a specialist in Virginia to help figure out why.
“After looking at the patient’s information we discovered that he had an inherited condition that would cause red blood cells to break up when consuming fava beans, and I had never seen that here in Virginia in all my 50 years as a physician," recalls Dr. Karen Rheuban, Director of the Center for Telehealth at UVA.
She says dozens of physicians here volunteer to do occasional consultations through the Swinfen Trust.
“We don’t actually see the patients, but we provide support to physicians and nurses in more than 90 countries.”
She notes many doctors already volunteer to care for patients in Third World countries, but Swinfen allows them to do that without leaving town or taking time away from busy practices in Virginia.