B.Y.U. heart specialists arrive in Samoa

Students from more than 10 schools in Savai'i will be the first to be screened by a heart specialist team from Brigham Young University (B.Y.U.) in Provo, Utah, United States.

A press conference was held at Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey's Hotel and Bungalows yesterday to welcome the team of 50 comprising doctors, medical technicians, and students, who are in Samoa for two weeks to screen for rheumatic heart disease. 

Professor and Biology Department chair at B.Y.U., Dr. Keoni Kauwe said this is not their first time to be in Samoa. 

He said their goal is to visit all the schools in Savai'i and Upolu to screen the children and to talk to them about rheumatic heart disease.

"The main purpose of our trip is to visit all the schools both in Upolu and Savai'i that the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) has organised for us to go visit and screen the children and also educate them and caregivers about rheumatic heart disease," he said. 

“We are a team of specialists like cardiologists and we can screen these children with high level of confidence and with great professional capacity for heart disease.

“Rheumatic heart disease affects a large number of children in Samoa. A total of 3 per cent of children in Samoa are suffering from rheumatic heart disease and it’s a fatal disease so we have this opportunity to use our expertise to help the M.O.H. screen more children and protect those children from the disease.

“It is a blessing for us to come and we know that if we help the M.O.H. by taking what we do and do better treatment for the children - we have screened over 25,000 children since 2009,” he said. 

Dr. Kauwe added that each year they identify between 70 and 100 children who need immediate care because their life is at risk.

“And so we know each time we come we are able to give that list of children to the Samoan medical professionals and they are able to treat the kids.

“For us it is extremely rewarding, we come and enjoy the love and support of so many people here, we feel that we benefit just as much just by being here and experiencing the culture and people. The Prime Minister has already endorsed a memorandum of understanding for five years to continue our work and it was signed two years ago.

“We screen at least just 5,000-6,000 students every year and we also do follow-up work every year, we go back and check on the children that we have screened in the past and make sure they are getting treatment and we have witnessed really positive feedback,” he added.

He said the Samoan Government is doing everything they can to take that information and use it to benefit the health of the children.

“We try to make the experience a little less frightening for the children, we bring backpacks with school supplies, and water bottles, and books."

The group will also pay a visit to the M.O.H. and hold a seminar at the National University of Samoa. 

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