New RMI doc in high gear

Dr. David Alfred, left, assists with a surgery at Shuang-ho Hospital in Taiwan. He was the first Marshallese to graduate from medical school in Taiwan.

Dr. David Alfred, the first Marshallese to graduate from medical school in Taiwan, is now in his second-year residency training at Shuang Ho Hospital, Taiwan.

After completing four years of medical school and a one year internship at Majuro hospital, Dr. Alfred developed an interest in surgery and decided to pursue a four-year surgery residency training in Taiwan that started in August last year.

“Being a surgeon allows you to experience both the clinical and surgical aspects of medicine,” Alfred said. “I was always amazed by how one can literally explore the internal components of the body, identify any pathological abnormalities, and fix them.”

The residency training has been a fruitful experience for him. “Surgery involves much more than just cutting open, removing, and suturing,” he said. Each and every patient has to be carefully evaluated ahead of a planned surgery and managed appropriately after operation. Medical knowledge is just as important as surgical skills, he said.

“It is a necessary balance in order to provide optimal and quality patient care,” Alfred said of a core concept he learned from his mentor.

Although one year has passed and he’s received good comments in his residency assessment, Alfred points out that what he has learned accounts for just a small percentage of the knowledge, experience is still needed and medicine is a great journey for a lifetime.

For years, Taiwan has committed to helping RMI to train local doctors. Students can apply for studying medicine school in Taiwan. Following completion of studies in Taiwan is a one-year internship training in Majuro hospital and then four-year residency training with the help from Taiwan health center and Shuang Ho Hospital.

Completion of this residency process will allow Alfred and those who follow him to be an attending doctor.

By this year, Taiwan has trained 10 Marshallese doctors, two in residency, six in medical internships, two freshly graduated from medical school and some more half way to graduation.

“Sometimes local staff would ask me how many local doctors we have now,” said Nora Wei, coordinator of Taiwan health center. “It’s happy to call the names and count on fingers with them to see what we achieved after these years, or join their discussion about what specialty they want to dig into in the future. Hope one day we can have a local doctor at each specialty and people won’t have to worry anymore that the doctor they need is not on island.”

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