Friday, March 10, 2017

La Doctora: An American Doctor in the Amazon - by Linnea Smith, M.D.


After a vacation to the Explorarama Lodge in Iquitos, Peru in 1990 Dr. Linnea Smith gave up her medical practice in Wisconsin to provide care for the people who lived in the Peruvian Amazon. Over an eight-year period her practice in Peru grew from a single exam room in the Lodge with some basic medicines to a multi-room hospital equipped for surgery. She also trained a local community member, Juvencio, to be her assistant. When she noticed the slowness with which Juvencio wrote up patient notes she was reminded that Juvencio's
formal education had extended only through the six grades of primary school, in the one-room, libraryless school down by the river. Since that time, ten years earlier, he written virtually nothing except, in rare intervals when he was employed, his signature on paychecks.
Nevertheless, Juvencio became quite skilled at practicing medicine
capable of examining a patient and reaching a diagnosis...prescribing and administering an appropriate medicine whether oral, intramuscular, or even intravenous, and explaining the necessary follow-up for 80-90 percent of ...cases...
Well, so much for the importance of libraries (or medical degrees, for that matter)!

Smith did bring with her to the Amazon what she called "a reference library in miniature" which consisted of a PDR (Physician's Desk Referenence)...;a small general medical reference; and a tiny looseleaf notebook in which [she] had accumulated ten years' worth of "pearls"...

This was a good read, with just enough of therapeutic drama to keep it interesting without being distressing.

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