Juan Caceres, UM medical student, visited Vanuatu, a remote island nation in the South Pacific, in August 2018, to help launch a study on beta thalassemia, a hemoglobin-reducing blood disorder that is prevalent there. Juan’s role was to pilot test a knowledge survey for cultural context; to evaluate how much the local population knows about the comparatively rare but often fatal blood disease. The ultimate goal is to return to the island and provide education. The four-week experience included time for clinical observation in a hospital in Luganville, where foreign medical students from Australia and the UK are regular visitors but American students are less frequent. Caceres was the first UMMS student to visit there.
“I felt really welcomed. I went in thinking this was strictly going to be a research project, so being able to spend so much time in the clinical wards was a surprise and a really valuable aspect of my experience,” Juan said. “I was able to observe in the hospital’s various wards, including emergency, pediatrics, and maternity, as well as ophthalmology. I think I learned way more than I was able to give them, especially at this point in my training. I came away with insights about using clinical judgment to problem-solve without an overreliance on technology. I know these insights are going to make me a better doctor in the future.