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Einstein Researcher Arrives in Micronesia for Blindness Study

By on 04/18/2017

Adele Schneider, MD, director of Clinical Genetics at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia, is leading a team of genetic researchers and vision experts to Weno, an island that is 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 first installment.

Chuuk is lush and has beautiful colorful trees and flowers. The ocean is never far away and it is really HOT!

On the island’s main drag, there are “shops” like market stores with rows of brightly colored skirts and muumuus hanging on clothes lines, alongside stands that also sell bananas on their stalks. There is no chain store here—no McDonald’s or 7-Eleven.

On arrival from Guam yesterday, Donna McNear, the educator of the visually impaired, and I had the most friendly reception! We were met with a sign, “Welcome to Chuuk,” held by our colleague Chelsea Phillip, who has been a huge help as the Chuuk-based liaison, as we planned for the clinics over the months. She placed a “marmar” on our heads, a garland of lovely fresh flowers that is a traditional thing to do when you welcome someone.

Other members of the Chuuk team from the Department of Health and the Chuuk Hospital were also part of the reception group.

We have spent our time meeting people who have some connection to our clinics and made final plans for all that we need to make things happen smoothly. The clinic will held at the Chuuk Women’s Council (CWC) building where we have spent time looking at the facility and deciding which rooms would work for each aspect of the clinic.

Our hotel is the Truk Stop and the owner, Bill Stinnett, is the husband of Kiki Stinnett who runs the CWC. They have both gone out of their way to help us and make sure we are successful. We have been made to feel so welcome by everyone who we have met. Dr. Anamaria Yomai and  Kathy Mori, our colleagues who have played a major role in recruiting families, have been wonderful and used their magic, without cell phones and internet, in recruiting 39 families for our clinics.

The rest of the team arrives tomorrow and we will join the welcome group for them. We are now Chuukese!

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