In between my first time in Saipan and this return, I spent a year in California doing some extra training in pediatric hematology/oncology. As many people don’t know, becoming an oncologist (a doctor with a specialization in cancer) also means that you become a hematologist (a doctor with specialization in blood problems). In the adult world, there is a growing separation between the two fields but in pediatrics they still remain closely tied. I am guessing that the reason this started was that because many cancers — especially cancers in kids — are in the blood. Bone marrow is what I describe as the “garden” where blood grows and pediatric hematologists/oncologists are also those that do bone marrow transplants in kids.
I always have been interested in hematology/oncology from the very beginning of when I decided that I wanted to be a doctor so being a physician here in Saipan AND practicing as a specialist in hematology and oncology is quite literally unheard of. Just as it has been challenging (in a good way) to practice pediatrics here in a relatively under-resourced (but not completely under-resourced) setting, it has also been challenging and rewarding to practice hematology-oncology here. One of the best parts of practicing medicine here is that I get to provide some services that may not have been available before. Being able to provide this when patients would have had to go off-island often for extended periods of time and be away from their families has been extremely rewarding.
Some examples of things that I have done include specialized tests of the bone marrow (on adults) that previously were not available on island, been available to discuss the cases (also known as ‘consulting’ in the medical world) on patients that have complicated bleeding or clotting problems, and.. what I love, taking care of kids with cancer and bleeding problems. One of the joys has also been being able to finally diagnose and tell people what their problem has been after many years of them just being told no one knew for sure. (And, obviously, this helps them get the right treatment they need!)
Just the other night, I got to participate in a celebration of patients with life-threatening conditions — a Make-A-Wish foundation fundraiser at my friends’ bar and grill — Naked Fish! Here are some pictures.
It was a great night with some yummy food. I was on call at the hospital unfortunately at the same time as the event so couldn’t stay the whole time and had to run, but was glad I got to participate.
Here is the only board member of Make-A-Wish Guam division that lives in Saipan with her husband who was the raffle prize MC for the night.
Here is everyone watching as one of the Make-A-Wish recipients sharing her experience. It was such a pleasure to hear this young lady talk about how she was blessed by the organization.
There was a band up for the night that provided some live entertainment as well.
You’ll hear soon about a bleeding disorder conference that I am helping to organize here in the CNMI on Saipan. It will include educational sessions for all the nurses, doctors, school PE teachers, physical therapists, dentists, dental hygienists, etc on island as well as a weekend ‘camp’ for families with someone affected by a bleeding disorder. It’s been great to be able to provide this subspecialty care not only in the hospital and with patients but also participate in the community in these kinds of ways.