The very first time I met Casiano Shoniber, Secretary of Education, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) in 2001, he began our conversation by asking, “What’s Next?” I stumbled through a response without understanding what he meant, and not understanding the profound influence those two words would have on my relationship with the FSM.
A decade later, we have engaged in many mutual projects to build local capacity and improve the lives of children with visual impairments. From low vision and blind projects to collaborating with accessible instructional materials projects, and most recently, a project to train teachers in visual impairments and orientation and mobility, Micronesia Missions has continued to partner with others with a vision toward sustainability.
Today, “What’s Next?” is a project to support two pre-med students from the University of Minnesota, Duluth engage in experiential learning and service work in healthcare on Chuuk and Pohnpei. Their visit will continue to influence progress in understanding the high incidence of children born in the FSM with anophthalmia and microphthalmia and support interdisciplinary work between the educational and medical communities.
Michael Clark is a first year medical student at the University of Minnesota-Duluth School of Medicine. Originally from Cambridge, Minn., he studied chemistry, biology and religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. He had the opportunity to study cultural medicine through the lens of religion via a study abroad program in China. This experience revealed the importance of cultural considerations in the practice of medicine and has motivated his continued interest in this important subject. By traveling to Micronesia this summer he hopes to continue expanding his understanding of this subject while exchanging ideas with the people of Micronesia and participating in a variety of projects both medical and non-medical. Michael is keeping his options open in regards to a medical specialty, but hopes to practice in Minnesota upon completion of his training.
Tyler Gress, also a first year student at the University of Minnesota-Duluth School of Medicine, grew up in Wadena, Minn. Following a similar academic pathway as Michael, he attended Concordia College, where they shared many of the same classes. Tyler has a background in volunteer service, and has assisted with genetic research to improve radiation therapy for patients with cancer. He has a strong interest in maintaining a global perspective on medicine, recognizing the significance of a broad background in his future practice. Officially, Tyler is “undecided” with respect to his future specialty, but has interest in Family Medicine and Oncology thus far. He plans to practice in rural Minnesota.
I am very excited about this trip and the potential for establishing future partnerships to meet the needs of children with visual impairments and disabilities. Michael and Tyler will be visiting Chuuk and Pohnpei beginning July, 2011 for approximately one month. Micronesia Missions is seeking donations to help support their trip. All donations will directly support their work. Helios Masonic Lodge #273 is the fiscal host and tax-deductible contributions can be made to Helios Lodge #273: Micronesia Missions.
Please send checks made out to Helios Lodge #273: Micronesia Missions to: Donna McNear, 34651 Blackfoot Street NW, Cambridge, MN 55008
Medical Education through Diversity and Service (MEDS) is an elective course offered at the University of Minnesota-Duluth School of Medicine in which students spend time immersed in a foreign culture to learn about different healthcare systems.