A new initiative to improve skin health of people from the Pacific

The Pacific Dermatology Training Centre at PJ Twomey Hospital, Suva Fiji was opened by the Honourable Ifereimi Waqainabete, Minister for Health and Medical Services in Fiji. The opening was also attended by Dr Margot Whitfeld an Australian dermatologist who has been working to improve skin health in Fiji for over a decade, and Dr Meciusela Tuicakau who will lead the work of the Training Centre.

“Skin conditions are the fourth leading cause of non-fatal disease burden worldwide,” says Dr Whitfeld. “At present there is only one specialist dermatologist in Fiji and the Pacific Island countries, meaning many Pacific people suffer unnecessarily with dermatological illnesses. Increasing the number of qualified dermatologists working in developing nations across the Pacific has the potential to significantly improve health and wellbeing, especially among children who have more skin disease than other age groups.”

The prevalence of many skin diseases, particularly scabies and impetigo, is as high in the Pacific as anywhere in the world. Research also indicates that there is a high prevalence of rheumatic heart disease and renal impairment (the symptoms of both include debilitating skin conditions) among children and adolescents in the Pacific. Albinism and other health issues including diabetic ulcers and leprosy have also raised the dermatology profile.

The first course to be delivered at the Centre will be a Postgraduate Diploma in Dermatology and training will be carried out by Dermatologists from Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA.

Among the first doctors to undertake the Diploma in Dermatology in 2019 will include two from Fiji, one from Samoa and one from Kiribati. The regional students have been sponsored by the World Health Organisation and the Pacific Leprosy Foundation

The Pacific Dermatology Training Centre is the initiative of Dr Whitfeld and has been supported by philanthropists who share her vision and hope for improved skin health for the people of the Pacific. The project was made possible with close collaboration and financial support of the Australian not for profit organisation, Pacific Dermatology Ltd, the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services and Fiji National University.