Two day Medical Symposium coordinated by LBJ and Public Health staff

A two day Medical symposium organized by the LBJ Medical Tropical Center and the American Samoa Department of Health opened on October 21st at the Rex Lee Auditorium in Utulei.  The symposium was coordinated by the medical staff of LBJ and the Health Department.  The theme of the symposium is “Medical Challenges in the Territory: Cancer and Infectious diseases” and is intended to provide American Samoa’s medical workers, off-island medical professionals and local government and non-governmental departments with more current and up-to-date statistical data and relevant information on cancer and infectious diseases and their impact on the territory.  It also aims to identify collective means of tackling these challenges in an effort to improve the overall health of the people of American Samoa.

Main objectives of the Symposium are to provide awareness of major health problems, focusing on cancer and infectious diseases, affecting the local population and its impact on health care costs the economy and the community.  Also, it hopes to attain up-to-date medical knowledge and evidence-based recommendations relevant to the territory and use this knowledge to improve the health and well-being of the people of American Samoa.

The Symposium began with remarks by Dr. Annie Fuavai and an introduction of Reverend Teofilo Schmidt who then blessed the symposium with remarks and a prayer. Following the blessing, Dr. Fuavai acknowledged the presence of dignitaries starting with Lieutenant Lemanu Peleti Mauga, Congresswoman Aumua Amata, Representatives and Senators, Doctors, Healthcare professionals, Nurses, members of Public Health, LBJ, CDC, as well as special guests and the local press. Dr. Fuavai spoke about the many challenges facing the territory, specifically cancer and infectious diseases. She expressed the desire that the two day symposium would allow health professionals and other participants to share knowledge and experience in search of solutions to the medical challenges facing the territory.

Dr. Fuavai next introduced the CEO of LBJ, Taufete’e John Faumuiana for his remarks. He began his remarks by greeting the participants and acknowledging special guests, including Dr. David Bouslough and students from Bryant University in Rhode Island.  Bryant University is the only Physician Assistant program with a clinical site in American Samoa.

The CEO then spoke about the challenges faced locally, including financial issues, the remoteness of the territory, access to information, the recruitment of qualified and specialized medical workers, updating policies and guidelines for managing patients, maintaining CMS certification so as to continue to upgrade quality health care, upholding the delivery of quality healthcare and educating the public to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The CEO continued that we must “meet these medical challenges head-on and take a stance and act now”.  He went on to provide statistics regarding the prevalence and increase of infectious diseases such as the Zika virus and dengue fever in the US territories. He cited statistics from the CDC that compare the disproportionate number of cases of infectious disease in the Continental United States as opposed to the US Territories.  He explained that compared to 4,016 reported Zika cases in the 50 States, there were 27,314 cases in the US territories of American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.  He stated that these numbers are alarming and that we must be proactive in finding solutions. “There is significant evidence and data of the medical challenges and continuous increase of infectious diseases”. He asked the participants be open to messages from presenters and to dialogue with colleagues to actively exchange ideas to find solutions for the Territory. CEO Taufete’e also made a special acknowledgement of Dr. Patrick Pedro, a native son of America Samoa, who now reside and practices medicine in Hawaii but always has the best interests of the territory in mind. The CEO then declared the Symposium officially open.

On behalf of Governor Lolo Moliga, Lieutenant Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga next approached the podium for his special remarks. The Lieutenant Governor delivered a heartfelt address, where he pondered the fact that although cancer and other contagious diseases have existed for a long time, a permanent solution is still being sought.  He implored the medical professionals to work together to find ways to face the medical challenges facing the Territory. He stated that the Governor and he were present to offer all the support and resources, but the medical professionals are the ones who have the expertise and training to address the challenges facing the people in the Territory.  The Lieutenant Governor ended his remarks stressing the need for teamwork between governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, community groups and medical professionals to find solutions to the existing medical challenges.

The Symposium proceeded with presentations, panel discussions and professional speakers culminating with findings and recommendations to enable greater efficiency in establishing more cost effective policies and guidelines in the future.