TAMC expands outreach

| June 29, 2012 | 0 Comments
Alma Tolenoa, a 10-year-old from Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia, is a patient referred to TAMC through PIHCP for treatment of Juvenile Polyposis, a genetic condition that causes polyps in the intestine. (Jan Clark | Pacific Regional Medical Command Public Affairs)

Alma Tolenoa, a 10-year-old from Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia, is a patient referred to TAMC through PIHCP for treatment of Juvenile Polyposis, a genetic condition that causes polyps in the intestine. (Jan Clark | Pacific Regional Medical Command Public Affairs)

Stephanie Bryant
Tripler Army Medical Center Public Affairs

HONOLULU — In 1989, when U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii introduced a bill to Congress to create a care-outreach program at Tripler Army Medical Center, here, the bill secured the bond between Tripler and Pacific Islanders across the region.

That bond continues today with the Pacific Island Health Care Project, or PIHCP. Federally funded through U.S. Army Medical Command, the project provides humanitarian care to the underserved indigenous peoples of the U.S. Associated Pacific Islands. The project also provides TAMC staff and residents with graduate-level medical education experiences.

Because of the geography in the Pacific region, a program like PIHCP offers health care for those who do not have access to or the resources to receive care.

Mary Takada-Naito and her husband, Uchel, are originally from the Republic of Palau. In October 2002, Uchel was diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia, a rare, slow-growing cancer of the blood, and was referred to TAMC for treatment.

“I actually never knew nor had heard of the PIHCP until my husband came to TAMC for his medical treatments,” Mary Takada-Naito said.

While her husband was receiving treatment, she volunteered to assist other patients from Palau who required an interpreter. In March 2005, she officially became coordinator for the Palau Medical Referral Program and case manager for patients who come from Palau through PIHCP.

“My role is to coordinate patients’ appointments, make sure our patients get to their appointments on time and be available to interpret for them as well as be their support system,” she said.

Humanitarian care is only half of the reason the program is special to TAMC and the region. Its educational value also makes PIHCP a great asset to the medical training center.

“There are incredible learning opportunities through this program,” said Col. Mark Burnett, medical director, PIHCP, and physician, Pediatric Infectious Disease and Travel Medicine, TAMC.

“As people travel more and are deployed all over the world, I think it is really helpful for our doctors in training here,” added Burnett, who was a resident at Tripler from 1993-97.

“When I was here in the early ‘90s, we would get calls from doctors in the islands, and patients would be sent. We would get very little information about the patients prior to their arrival (at Tripler),” Burnett said.

Slowly, the program equipped many of the islands with computers, digital cameras, scanners, video cameras and printers to support the Web-based electronic consult and referral system that was created for it. By 2001, 10 different sites were equipped for the Web-based program.

“There are between 60-80 physicians with personal computers who are able to upload records and refer patients to be seen from their clinics now,” Burnett said.

“When a seriously ill patient on a small island in the Pacific is told … he is being referred to TAMC, it sparks within the patient and his family a hope for cure,” Mary Takada-Naito added. “The PIHCP is about people, about giving hope, and it is about life.”

PIHCP Islands

Islands that are supported by PIHCP include American Samoa; Guam; the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; the Republic of Palau; the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which includes Ebeye and Majuro; and the Federated States of Micronesia, which includes Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap.

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Category: Army Community Covenant, Health, News

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