LCCH pharmacist travels to Thailand to provide medical training
Jun 16, 2010
Lake Chelan Community Hospital (LCCH) pharmacist Christy Nielson recently spent more than a week in Thailand, heading up a new pharmacy training program for medics and community health workers working in remote clinics with the Karen ethnic group in Burma.
| ||Christy Nielson, PHARM.D, has worked at LCCH for five years. She recently visited Thailand to train medics who care for patients in remote villages in Burma. |
“One thing I learned is not to take the health care system we have here in America for granted. We are very lucky.”
Nielson, who has worked at LCCH since 2005, has many years of pharmacy experience in rural areas of Alaska and Washington, as well as in larger hospitals in Spokane. Her skills are essential to helping build a program for the clinics, where it often takes one to two weeks on foot to deliver medicine and equipment to a population displaced by 60 years of ethnic conflict.
The goal of Nielson’s training course is to teach proper transport, storage and dispensation of medicines to patients - and provide health workers with a solid scientific background on the many medicines they work with daily. Upon completion of the course, teams of trainers will go into the field to rural clinics and conduct the training themselves. The medics will also be able to set up, operate and maintain their camp and village-based pharmacies. In addition, Nielson will research stability of drugs in the tropical environment.
Talking about her experience, Nielson describes jungle villages with “bare-bones” hospitals and clinics built of bamboo and thatched leaf roofing; hospital beds were simple bamboo mats. In one village, a canvas yurt served as an operating room. Solar power refrigerated pharmacy storage units are rare, and even those, Nielson says, are unreliable because of the dark jungle conditions.
“These are a very resilient people,” said Nielson, who regularly deal with malaria, intestinal parasites, typhoid and cholera, as well as other medical problems. “They are not looking for handouts. They just want to gain medical skills so they can take care of themselves.”
Unlike recent tragedies in Haiti and Chile, the situation in Burma is more of a chronic problem, she said. Nielson hopes the pharmacy program she builds will help close the safety gaps, improving health care for the thousands who live in the remote jungle villages.
She plans to return to Thailand in the fall to continue developing the program. “I have always wanted to use my skills in a humanitarian setting. I was grateful for this opportunity,” she said.
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|Clockwise: three medics in the program wearing headlamps often necessary in the dark jungle conditions; Nielson looking through the medications on hand as she plans a safer system for patients; a yurt operating room covered by a bamboo and thatched leaf roof in a village that also has a prosthesis workshop for those injured by mines; a mother and child in one of the remote villages || || |
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