Hola from Honduras!!! The past few weeks here have been incredible– although I was down for several days due to sickness early on, I have since rebounded in time to experience the wonders of Honduran pride in the World Cup, sudden downpours and subsequent hours-long traffic in the mountains, and the interactions among people and their community. The pictures uploaded are snapshots of my life in Honduras as I work at the clinic and go on the outreach brigades– The two pictures with a lot of people in them were taken from one brigade in Marcala, where I was able to interview several members of the community regarding their medical history (I’m in the top right corner of the lower picture, interviewing someone!). At the clinic in Tegucigalpa, I work with Dr. Flores (pictured) and another ophthalmologist who specializes in the retina of the eye. Also pictured is the car that we take on outreach brigades (aka the safari mobile), parked outside the entrance of the clinic.
As another Global Health blogger wrote, I have found that research takes time. Although getting a subject to interview for the study is not at all difficult (in fact, everyone rather enjoys these interviews since it gives them something to do while waiting for the doctor!), I learned that there are other factors to be taken into account. For instance: At the clinic, where subjects’ eyes are dilated and examined by the doctor for the study, an initial screening must first be done by the doctor to make sure that these dilations do not pose a risk to the patient (who may develop acute glaucoma as a result) and check that dilations are even necessary. For most of the patients that come to the clinic, though, the doctor has found that dilations are not necessary–thus limiting how many subjects I am able to interview for the day. As for outreach brigades, I recently came back from a 2-day trip to San Lorenzo– in which we had a total of four patients come for an eye check-up. These four patients were employees of the orphanage that was hosting the brigade.
Thus, I have definitely encountered some roadblocks to my study that I had not anticipated prior to coming here–including the recent outbreak of dengue fever in Honduras that has slowed the flow of patients coming into clinic and brigades out of fear of transmission! Nevertheless, I have been able to gather data that I hope will be useful in improving eye health in Honduras, even if only by raising awareness among healthcare professionals of how rarely people come in for eye examinations on a regular basis (or at all)–something that could make all the difference between sight and irreparable blindness! Another student from the US is actually conducting a study to analyze further the barriers to patient care in situations like this–why is it that patients who have advanced myopia (ie terrible vision) are only just now coming into the clinic to have their eyes checked? This is an interesting question that my study lends support to, as I have found that many subjects with advanced ocular problems are coming into the clinic for the first time in more than 5 years, if ever!
Only two weeks remain of my stay in Honduras, and I hope to make the most of them with my study and with my experiences here as a student, friend, and honorary Honduran. 🙂
Until next time, amigos!