Friday, April 09, 2010

Tropical Disease and Tropical Medicine

I had opportunity today to hike for a few hours with a group of persons from the U.S. that I know from my family's life history. While here in Costa Rica studying, we were delighted to discover that a few houses away at the hotel in the valley - the Savegre Hotel - Darrell Marks, retired professor of physics (and astro physics) from Northwest Nazarene University - is here birding with his family. Darrell taught both of my brothers, and my one sister, in Physics classes.

As I spent the morning out in the cloud forest with them, I joked that he and I are both scholars who have studied the "high" sciences - he in astrophysics and myself in "heavenly" theological pursuits. What a delight to spend the morning appreciate the beauty of the rain forest - viewing a few quetzals while we were out! It give me a greater ability to appreciate the natural beauty of this gorgeous valley when I'm here with other people. David Hille is such a calm, steady, good "guide" for pointing out and naming the beauty of various species while here.

Along the way I had the opportunity - with the students that are here - to read two books that I certainly would not have picked up without the keen recommendation of a faculty colleague who required the students here to read two books - one about a a doctor who left Wisconsin to become a doctor in a remote area of the Amazon. La Doctora: An American Doctor in the Amazon was a great read. I learned about the people she has encountered, her real canoe carved by hand from a single tree - and the various ways she has encountered unique and specific situations where she has provided medical aid to persons in the amazon - both locals and tourists. It was an insightful way to view the life of another person - in first person record. If I had something to offer to some place in the "middle of nowhere" and knew I could survive by moving there. I would do it. I would do it in one place after another, year after year - attempting to experience all that life would afford to me.

A separate book that I did not read in its entirety, but I did read significant portions of, had to do with tropical diseases and how they shape the life situations of people - millions of people. Forgotten People, Forgotten Diseases is written by Jewish author and medical specialist Peter Hotez. I note his Jewish identity only because in the final chapter of the book he makes specific reference to his Jewish identity and the need for the world to be more Just - to advance Justice. I learned so much when I read the book - admittedly, since I'm reading for fun and not for study like the students - I didn't have to try to track all the minutiae of important details regarding how rabies or the hookworm or snail viruses are spread! But I was still fascinated with the various and manifold descriptions of the microscopic means by which these micro-organisms have maximized their own life - by preying upon human life! Somewhat disgusting . . . but fascinating all the same. One worm works its way through the digestive system and then comes out as an excretion in the soles of the foot - being released back into water where it starts its life cycle all over again. (Jimmy Carter's agency has done much to help with this worm - the Guinea Worm.)

Anyway - what was most compelling about Hotez work is the appeal he makes in his final chapter for one of the best forms the American (specifically U.S. Policy based) government could help people and have the greatest effect on international based political work and advocacy for others is by working to do more to eradicate the forgotten diseases to aid persons - millions of them, throughout the world. I have to admit, I found Hotez case compelling! A means by which the good could be advanced for the all! I hope to help students think about what they can do for the cause of others in line with Hotez perspectives. Compelling.

Great days here in the Cloud Forest. Good students. Good experiences. Unique meals, conversations, flora, fauna. Life is good. I am blessed.

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