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In This Issue:
Melissa Murphy performs an EEG on a child in Ecuador.
Hundreds of people traveled hours to Tena, Ecuador, by bus, taxi and even canoe to see neurologists and other specialists from the U.S. at a clinic in the small town near the Amazon jungle as part of an epilepsy medical mission earlier this month.
“There are no neurologists in Tena, and these patients had not been treated, so the clinics were packed with patients waiting to see specialists,” said Barbara Dworetzky, MD, director of the BWH Clinical Neurophysiology Fellowship, who assisted former BWH fellow Sebastian Espinosa, MD, in organizing the mission to Hospital José Maria Velasco. Espinosa worked with Aaron Berkowitz, a medical student obtaining his PhD at Harvard, to recruit volunteers and obtain donations.
Dworetzky’s husband, Christopher Shanahan, MD, of Boston University Medical Center, Syd Cash, MD, from MGH, Blanca Vasquez, MD, from NYU, and physicians from the University of Kentucky treated 475 patients in the clinic. BWH technologist Melissa Murphy stayed two weeks and performed EEGs, a test that records brain activity and can locate seizures and other conditions, on 125 patients, ranging from three months old to 65 years.
“The days were long, but really rewarding,” said Murphy, a registered EEG technologist at BWH since 2005. “Your heart goes out to these people because they don’t have the same access to care and health systems that we have here.”
This trip was the result of a partnership with Latin America started by Espinosa when he was awarded a grant from the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) as part of his fellowship. A year ago, he planned and facilitated a neuroscience conference in Quito, Ecuador, at which BWH’s Ed Bromfield, MD, Milena Pavlova, MD, Dworetzky and Shanahan spoke. There they met Nicole Falcone, a physical therapist working in Tena, who informed them about the large number of patients suffering from epilepsy at her hospital and the total lack of access to EEG machines, brain imaging and other technology. Since then, BWH physicians have hosted a series of videoconferences with Ecuadorian physicians in Tena, Quito and the Galapagos, discussing cases and sharing their experiences.
For this month’s mission trip to Ecuador, Espinosa, with the help of Dworetzky, wrote letters that brought in donations of EEG machines and other needed equipment. “We hope this mission will continue, with more visits to Ecuador to come,” Dworetzky said.
During the visit, the group also spoke to teachers, house officers and first responders, including police and firefighters, about how to treat people having seizures.