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Clinic Day 4: An Einstein Researcher’s Mission to Micronesia

By on 04/27/2017

Adele Schneider, MD, director of Clinical Genetics at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia, is leading a team of genetic researchers and vision experts on the island of Weno, part of Chuuk State in the nation of Micronesia, hoping to learn what they can about the genetic underpinnings of anophthalmia/microphthalmia (A/M), which causes blindness. They also hope to try to determine whether certain environmental factors might contribute to A/M, and to provide badly needed ophthalmological services.

Dr. Schneider is blogging from Weno during her stay.  This is her third installment.     

Tuesday Clinic, April 25

The clinic was busy today. People from Tonoas and Udot, two islands in the Micronesian state of Chuuk, all came by boat after big early morning storms. The clinic was moving along fine with our video team, Steve and Justin McCarthy, when the power went out. It remained out long enough that we moved to plan C.

When we realized that examining a patient with the iPhone light as our only good source of light was not very efficient, we thought about moving outside to do the exams. Then we were fortunate that the conference room here at the Chuuk Women’s Council was open. It has lots of windows, so it was bright enough for filming and examining the patients and talking to the parents, but because there was no air conditioning, it was really hot and sweaty for all of us!

After about one hour in the hot conference room, the lights came on and we turned on the air again.  The rest of the afternoon was nice and cool.

Another special thing about the clinics is the food that has come from the caterer at the nearby Kurassa Hotel. We get morning and afternoon snacks of fruit and a cookie or cake, and lunch is a full meal with salad, fish or chicken and veggies and dessert. My favorite is the red rice, which I had never tasted before. Also today we had some parrot fish, a special delicacy here in Chuuk, and it was delicious!

We share all of the food with the staff and patients who can eat it here or take it home in a prepackaged box. Since the families may be here for hours, the food is an especially important part of making the visit comfortable for them and the children.

Today we also had a patient who came in with a diagnosis of microphthalmia. Upon examination, pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Alex Levin made a completely different diagnosis.  Research is not predictable, and this is just one of the unexpected findings. But we are still here to help the families understand the eye disorder in their children.

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