For the first time in the Alan Charters Elective Prize history there was no finalist from Africa, instead two students based in Papua New Guinea and two from Mexico took this year’s honours. (refugeevillagefinal) Peter Dewing at a refugee evacuation camp in Madang Papua New Guinea.
(peterpnglocals) Peter Dewing making new friends amongst the locals.
(rostaylorbest)Rosalind Taylor in Wewak, PNG.
(Julia and clairemexico)Winners are grinners. Julia Marcello and Claire Harma (Puerto Escondido Mexico).
Once again the assembled at UWA’s tropical disease department were privileged to hear three final year medical students give excellent accounts of their elective attachments. For the first time in the Alan Charters Elective Prize history there was no finalist from Africa, instead two students based in Papua New Guinea and two from Mexico took this year’s honours.
Julia Marcello and Claire Harma offered a splendid shared presentation outlining their activities at the renowned surfing mecca of Puerto Escondido in south-west Mexico. But it was not just sun, board wax and Coronas for these two medical dynamos. They experienced a side of Mexico not usually seen, joining the local sanitary engineers “Team Paludismo” on mosquito control expeditions gaining first hand insights into how poverty limits access to medical care in an extremely ‘two-tiered’ medical system.
Venturing to the wilds of Paua New Guinea, Peter Dewing travelled to Madang on PNG’s north coast, where he worked with refugees from the volcanic island of Manam. Forced to flee their ash covered homes after a recent eruption, these people now find themselves in makeshift communities on the mainland, without crops or income and living among people they traditionally have not mixed with.
Surrounded by dire medical circumstances and limited resources, Peter overcame his initial frustrations over where to begin by finding inspiration and hope in the optimism of the local people including the warm smiles of the young piccaninnies (local children) who followed him along the beach.
Fellow UWA colleague Rosalind Taylor spent her time further up the north coast of PNG, at Wewak, close to the site of a major tsunami that recently devastated the area. Rosalind soon discovered how you practice medicine without running water or electricity and assisted at the emergency caesarean section delivery of a hydrocephalic babe. The delivery was conducted without benefit of tap water to scrub while also working in part darkness while the generator was kicked back into life.
Rosalind also noted many pharmacy items often included donated expired stock from Australia of dubious worth but like any good doctor, she made positive contributions in a challenging foreign aid environment and had no trouble attracting the children with her ?majik hans’.
This year the prize money for the winner was doubled to $1000, fortuitously as it turned out, as Julia Marcello and Claire Harma shared the booty. Their names will join the winners from the last seven years on the shield outside UWA’s FJ Clarke lecture theatre.
The Prize was established in 1998 and is named after the late Dr Alan Charters, who taught Perth students in tropical medicine for decades. It is awarded annually to a final year medical student following their elective attachment, and has been sponsored since its inception by GSK and MDA.