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Clinic Day 5: An Einstein Researcher’s Mission to Micronesia

By on 04/28/2017

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 fourth installment.

Thursday Clinic, April 27, 2017

Our clinics continue, and yesterday we had our scheduled families and a few extras who had heard we were here, so they came for eye exams. They were not part of our research project, but it seems the word has got out that we are nice and helpful. The teams from the U.S. and Chuuk organically merged into a great team which works well together, as well as enjoying each other’s company. This unique experience will be difficult to repeat and we are all feeling sad that it is coming to an end after clinic tomorrow.

Chuuk Women's Council-2This morning while we were waiting to get started, two local women arrived at the Chuuk Women’s Center (CWC), where we conduct our clinics.

The president of CWC is Kiki Stinnett, who was key to the success of our clinics. This place is unique. The first floor was built as a wellness center, where programs and services could be offered to empower women in a culture where respect for women is not always present. It provides health care information about HIV AIDS, diabetes, cancer screening, family programs for mother and child, and immunizations. They also offer classes in skills like sewing, local crafting and cooking.

The second floor was added in 2014, and is the Youth and Family Learning Resources Center. It provides education programs with a library, computer lab, and the media room for music and arts.

Adele w child 3-2One of the major initiatives at CWC is the Adopt-a-School program, which supports the engagement and involvement of parents in their children’s learning.  Each of our Women’s Associations in Chuuk adopts a school in its community and helps the school staff in maintaining the cleanliness of the school grounds and encourages participation in the school PTA.

An amazing program here is the Home Garden project, funded by the United State Agency for International Development (USAID), where families are taught to plant a vegetable garden in their back yards in order to feed healthy food to the family.  They are provided vegetable seeds, lessons on soil management and composting, and fertilizer.  It is hoped that families will obtain access to fresh vegetables, which are rare in Chuuk, by growing their own. There is also endemic Vitamin A deficiency in Chuuk and if families grow vegetables high in Vitamin A, this problem could be solved.

A new focus is domestic violence and teaching women how to protect themselves and not remain in a bad relationship. The future plan of CWC is to find a shelter for families in distress.

Our clinics at CWC have utilized all the facilities of the building, fulfilling its mission of providing health care and clinics of all kinds to the population of Chuuk.

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