Teledermatology Abroad: You’ve Got To See It To Belize It

April 1, 2013  |  Department News, Resident News

by Michelle Bayer, MD

MCW’s Dermatology Department began receiving tropical teledermatology consults in early 2013 through a newly established teledermatology outreach program with Hillside Health Care International in the Toledo District of southern Belize.

Planning group members:

  • Barbara Wilson, MD
  • Edit Olasz, MD, PhD
  • Kristin Holland, MD
  • Jacquelyn Kuzminski, MD (Pediatrics)
  • Michelle Bayer, MD
  • Steve Humphrey, MD
  • Tifany Frazer, MPH (Global Health Program Manager, Institute for Health and Society, MCW)
  • Kristin Johnson, JD (Assistant General Counsel)
  • Whitney Vann, Medical Student

Project development began last year when I and Stephen Humphrey (then Pediatrics interns) desired to start up a global dermatology outreach project. Drawing on the use of teledermatology outreach to Neenah, WI in the Pediatric Dermatology clinic and the Pediatrics Department’s ongoing relationship with the Hillside Health Care International Clinic (HHCI) in Belize, the idea for extending teledermatology services to Belize was born.

mapThanks to the enthusiastic support from faculty in both the Dermatology and Pediatrics Departments, a planning group was formed. The project has been able to move forward with a $5,000 grant from the American Academy of Dermatology’s SkinCare for Developing Countries program.

HHCI is a United States based non-profit organization dedicated to providing health care, health education, and community outreach to the medically underserved people of rural southern Belize. It also serves as an educational site for medical, nursing, pharmacy, and physical therapy students who come for month-long rotations to experience healthcare in the developing world.

The mutually beneficial teledermatology partnership between MCW and HHCI has the following objectives:

Hillside Clinic

Hillside Clinic

  • Educate HHCI providers (physicians, nursing staff, community health workers, and visiting student learners) regarding dermatologic disease diagnosis, management, and prevention
  • Educate rural community members about skin care, hygiene, and dermatologic disease
  • Provide teledermatology consultations which improve medical care and dermatologic specialty care for the underserved, impoverished population in rural southern Belize
  • Provide an opportunity for MCW residents and attending physicians to learn from experience with teledermatology and gain exposure to tropical diseases not often encountered in domestic clinical settings
  • Contribute to research data on dermatologic disease in Central America and teledermatology in developing countries

Next steps

Drs. Bill Brown and Angela Thomas - Hillside Clinic Family Physicians

Drs. Bill Brown and Angela
Thomas – Hillside Clinic Family Physicians

I and Dr. Kuzminski recently returned from a week-long trip to the HHCI clinic near Punta Gorda, Belize. We accomplished our trip goals during our time at HHCI by introducing the teledermatology outreach program to the HHCI staff (including the cameras and educational supplies) and conducting a chart review to characterize the burden of dermatologic disease seen at HHCI clinics prior to project implementation. MCW is now receiving teledermatology consults from HHCI. Stay tuned for updates on our experiences!