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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (March 4, 2002 - Marianas Variety/PINA Nius Online)---The United States government will spend US$ 1.5 million over the next three years to give Micronesian doctors post-graduate training through a new program in Palau.

Health officials in the area say that it is a huge step forward for specialty training to be offered in the region.

In the days of the U.S. Trust Territory administration, from the early 1950s through the 1970s, there was no opportunity for Micronesian doctors to gain specialized post-graduate training.

The United States government-funded Pacific Basin Medical Officers Training Program in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, closed its doors in 1996 after training 70 Palaun, Micronesian, Marshallese and American Samoan medical officers. The only regional opportunity for the doctors to gain advanced training after that was at the Fiji School Of Medicine in Suva.

Now, with the aid of the U.S. government, there's a new training program in Micronesia.

A new three-year post-graduate training initiative is starting next month in Koror, Palau.

It is made possible through the collaboration of the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawai'i, the University of Auckland Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, the Palau Community College and the Palau Ministry of Health.

The pattern throughout the Micronesian area is that the weakest doctors were put in public health. But, said Dr. Gregory Dever, head of the Bureau of Clinical Services at the Ministry of Health in Koror, "If we believe in primary health care, we have to put our best doctors in this field to combat life-style diseases."

The problem, he said, is that up to now there has been no specialized training for Micronesian doctors in family practice -- an area of medicine essential to targeting the alarming increase in such life-style problem as strokes, heart attacks, hypertension and diabetes. In the Marshall Islands, for example, health officials report that more than 50 percent of hospital admissions are the result of sickness related to diabetes.

The new three-year program aims to provide island doctors with a diploma in family practice by "marrying the best elements of the U.S. post-graduate training system with the best of the British system," said Dever.

The British system is strong on academics, the Americans in hands-on training, said Dever, who directed the Pohnpei-based Medical Officers School until it closed six years ago.

The grant will expand Palau Community College's growing health sciences program, which is already operating nursing training and a U.S. Centers for Disease Control funded regional emergency medical health training program, said college president Patrick Tellei.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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