We are nearing day seven in St. Thomas and it’s still hard to believe that we’re here. I think I can speak for all of us in saying that we are truly grateful for this experience. Immersing ourselves in another culture and learning from healthcare providers and community members in the US Virgin Islands has been wonderful thus far!
Our journey began with a weekend of introductions and community service – allowing us to first get to know and give back to the island. Following our arrival to Charlotte Amalie West (i.e. the airport) we took the scenic route to Cowpet Bay and the shared condo that we currently call home. After getting settled, we enjoyed a delicious meal (and beyond beautiful view) with a local endocrinologist that half of our group will be working with next week. Over dinner, we learned about impact of diabetes on the island, the local patient population, and aspects of island culture that contribute to high rates of chronic disease. We then tucked in at Cowpet Bay, tired from a long day of travel, but excited for the adventures ahead!
The next morning, we headed straight to Golden Age Ranch in yellow Emory Nursing T-Shirts – prepared to get dirty. Over the next several hours, equipped with gloves and lathered in sunscreen and bug spray, we sealed six large wooden benches, painted nearly a dozen wooden jumps, and bathed 16 horses. We took direction from the man who built the ranch from the ground up and whose passion for rescuing horses is inspiring! In recognition of our effort, he is treating us all to a sunset ride along the beach (the first group went yesterday and fell in love with horses Pepper, Ultra, Champagne, and Cayanne!).
Sunday began with a local church service. We were invited to attend by a local obstetrician gynecologist who we are partnering with at the island’s Federally Qualified Health Center. The church community graciously welcomed us – both during the church service and with lot and lots of hugs (both during the greeting component of the service and again upon our departure). For the rest of the afternoon, we took in the incredible beauty of this island at Magens Bay (one of the world’s seven most beautiful beaches) – resting up for the start of a busy and productive week!
The last three days we have become immersed in the local FQHC, working on numerous quality improvement initiatives, taking in the flow and culture of the clinic, precepting with providers, and delivering health screenings in the community at Innovative health fairs on St. Thomas, St. Croix, and tomorrow, in the British Virgin Islands. Our largest project involves developing an electronic tool to enable diabetes & hypertension data capture for mandated FQHC reporting. We’ve built an excel workbook (with some pretty fancy built-in formulas and automatic calculations) that providers are excited about and have begun entering client data. Next, we’ll be creating a platform to pull reports and stratify data from this tool. (This project is vital to the health center now due to limited functionality and technological support provided by their current electronic medical record.)
Additional projects include an ambulatory care survey evaluating the patient experience and the development of maternal and child health resources. At the Innovative health fairs, we are partnering with the FQHC to offer weight management education and blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol screenings for the islands’ largest employer. Tomorrow, part of our group will get started with the endocrinologist on evaluating and developing diabetes education resources.
Again, we are thrilled to be here. We have learned a great deal and hope we are making meaningful contributions as well!
Till next time!
– St. Thomas, USVI Crew