A Honey of an Idea


Meet Dr. Vera Sistenich, an Emergency Medicine physician from Sydney, Australia. Dr. Vera is the Project Leader for HandsUp Congo, an Australian nonprofit, “Building a Healthy Congo” Project. In collaboration with local partners and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) government they are committed to bring Emergency Medicine training and integration to the DRC healthcare system. This is her story on one way she supports their goals.

“I started in 2015 when I lived in a seaside suburb here in Sydney called Coogee. As a child, I grew up in Hong Kong (my Mum is Chinese) but our family spent our summer holidays in Germany (my Dad is from Munich). We had a very rural home in a Bavarian suburb next to a forest. Our neighbour, an old man, used to keep his hives in the forest which I used to pass walking our little sausage dog daily. I was always fascinated, and we could see the old man at night through the window processing wax and honey. I thought to myself as a girl I’d love to keep bees one day. When I moved to Sydney and bought my own home for the first time, I came across The Urban Beehive, a business and movement promoting responsible beekeeping in the urban environment. The owners Doug Purdie and Vicky Brown are Australian beekeeping royalty now! I did a course with them and then started my own hive in the outdoor area of my ground floor unit in Coogee.

The weather here is so good that my one hive was producing around 100kg of honey a year. There are only so many birthday and Christmas presents you can make with all this honey! This volume would give around 300 jars a year, so I tried my hand at a little social enterprise, creating a label called “Coogee Bees for Congo” and selling each jar for AUD $15 and putting all the profit towards our Congo EM Project. There is a famous building in Coogee right by the beach called The Coogee Pavilion. It has a blue and white dome, which is what inspired the blue and white bee of my label, set within the contour of the landmass of the DRCongo. I changed the sting of the bee into a little heart, a reminder to myself of our duty to translate compassion into practice towards those in need everywhere. 

I now have 2 hives, producing about 200kg per year. I have raised over AUD $ 10,000 since the start of the project with the honey.

Beekeeping is very successful in the city. The Sydney Bee Club, of which I’m a committee member, has partnered with several universities here for research, providing dead bees and honey samples from our members from numerous suburbs. It turns out that the honey produced in cities is less contaminated with chemicals and pesticides than a lot of rural honeys and the flavours more complex due to the diversity plants and lack of monocultures in the urban setting. Heavy metals from the city environment are stored within the bodies of the bees themselves and secreted somewhat into the wax, but not into the honey. This came as a big and welcomed surprise to us all. Challenges, though, included minimising swarming in the urban environment so our hives don’t become a public nuisance, and adhering to rules and regulations regarding safety towards our neighbours. The practice is popular here and encouraged by our local counsellors. 

I don’t do any formal marketing as such. I work at two hospitals here in Sydney and just by word of mouth, colleagues, family and friends buy out the honey every time. I post on Facebook when I have a new batch and also on the HandUp Congo Facebook page. I also make candles from the wax as gifts.

In addition to raising funds for the EM project, one year, we chanced upon the only beekeeper training collective in the whole of the Congo whilst traveling to one of our teaching sites by road. From that, a completely separate Be A Honey Project was born – we have raised funds to bring these experts to the remote village of Lotumbe, where Lucy of HandUp Congo grew up, to train them in sustainable beekeeping, in particular to empower the Pygmy population there.”

What’s the Buzz About Honey?

Manuka honey (Wikipedia)

The May edition of Emergency Medical Reviews and Perspectives (EM:RAP), your CME sponsor for the Continuing Medical Education on Stick (CMES) Project, has an article on the use of honey in the emergency department or outpatient clinic. The commonly known medical uses for honey include cough suppression and skin wound antibacterial agent. Other uses that can be life saving are cited in the article titled, Honey for Everything by Ilene Claudius MD and Sol Behar MD. Buzz on over to your thumb drive or CMES-Pi and take a listen or read. It’ll sweeten your day.

 

Five-petaled white flowers and round buds on twigs bearing short spiky leaves. A dark bee is in the centre of one of the flowers.

Manuka bloom (Wikipedia)

Who Knew? The antibacterial effects of honey vary widely depending on the type and production location as cited by Willix et al. of the University of Waikato in New Zealand. Manuka honey found in New Zealand is reported to have high antibacterial activity.

 

Cultural Highlight: St. Lucia

While traveling to install the Techies Without Borders Continuing Medical Education on Stick Project (CMES and CMES-Pi) I have been invited to joined in local sports events…playing soccer in Ecuador with clinic patients…volleyball at the Himanchal Higher Education School in Nangi, Nepal…and receiving a cricket lesson in St. Lucia. Understanding not only the medical culture in a country but the cultural pastimes is important in bridging relationships.

Dominoes played in St. Lucia during work breaks.

One of my favorite games to simply watch is Dominoes played with great enthusiasm in St. Lucia. You know a hotly contested game is nearby when you hear the dominoes slammed down onto the table….quickly followed by cheers and groans.

 

Who Knew? Besides playing games, another use of dominoes involves standing them on end in long lines so that when the first tile is toppled, it topples the second, which topples the third, etc., resulting in all of the tiles falling. By analogy, the phenomenon of small events causing similar events leading to change is called the Domino Effect…we at TWB believe making CME available to all medical practitioners directly affects their patients and you don’t need a game face to make the win. (Photo Wikipedia)

Meet a Solar Power House from Nepal

Meet Sandeep Giri, Founder and CEO of Gham Power, a Nepali company providing solar based solutions for rural households, businesses and communities. Their solar micro-grid solutions are used where national gridlines are not available.

Bayalpata Hospital, Achham District, Nepal.

Gham Power enables TWB to provide the free Continuing Medical Education on Stick Project in remote areas of Nepal such as Possible Health’s Bayalpata Hospital in the far western Achham District. They installed the solar panels which provides the electricity to run the hospital and the Raspberry-Pi device. Doctors and nurses use smart phone apps to access up-to-date medical information on the Pi thereby decreasing their isolation and improving their knowledge base. Gham Power uses unique “pay as you go” financing and investors to help communities reach their potential with access to electricity. They also developed solar pump solutions for farmers.

TWB gives a three thumb drive salute to Gham Power for their global foresight, business model and technical ingenuity. Read more about them on our Facebook page.

CMES-Pi Participant Highlight: Mount St. John’s Medical Center, Antigua

Meet Dr. Vonetta George who works at Mount St. John’s Medical Center (MSJMC) in Antigua. Dr. Vonetta works in all critical care areas of the hospital including supervising the 15 doctors and 2 dozen+ nurses in the Emergency Department.

Antigua is located in the West Indies, a Leeward Island in the Caribbean. Mount St. John’s serves the population of Antigua and also Barbuda. Working on an isolated island directly affects the doctors and nurses ability to access current continuing medical education in a cost effective manner. Dr. Vonetta was the gail force hurricane behind getting the CMES-Pi Project installed in her hospital. MSJMC installed a CMES-Pi in June last year. Using our smart phone apps the staff can look up CME current practice topics at bedside. The CME is provided by our partner Emergency Medicine Reviews and Perspectives. The PDF files provide helpful bullet points and take seconds to read. The MP3 files are providing topics for weekly group CME conferences and discussions. The CMES-Pi Project directly impacts access to CME for 101 doctors and 179 nurses at the hospital. Thank you Dr. Vonetta!

Who Knew? The first inhabitants were the Siboney, who can be dated back to 2400 BCE. Arawaks settled subsequently, around the 1st century CE. The Caribs arrived later, but abandoned Antigua around the 16th century, due to the shortage of fresh water. Christopher Columbus sighted the larger island in 1493, and named it after a church in Seville, Santa Maria de la Antigua. (Commonwealth)

CMES Participant Highlight: 32 Volcanos in Guatemala

Dr. Carmen (center) and Dr. Herman (right side) from 32 Volcanos using the CMES-Pi.

32 Volcanes may be a new Guatemalan non-profit but they are well known to Techies Without Borders (TWB). 32 Volcanoes, formerly Asociación Pop Wuj, has participated in the CMES-Pi Project since 2018. 32 Volcanos continues to operate and partner with the guidance of Foundation Todos Juntos (FTJ), a Guatemala non-profit which aims to support public health projects. TWB came to know these organizations through our partnership with Timmy Global Health (TGH), a USA based non-profit. We provide CMES and CMES-Pi to all TGH partners in Guatemala, Santo Domingo and Ecuador.

Located in Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala the 32 Volcanos team lead by the tireless, creative and undefeatable Dr. Carmencita de Alvarado support and deliver educational, health, nutrition, and environmental projects in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Driven by the social needs of the diverse communities the projects integrate all aspects of the communities’ life and health needs.

This new organization comes from the 26 years of experience of Dr. Carmen and Roney Alvarado and has been created not only to maintain and develop their above goals, but also to ensure that this experience becomes a path of mutual, integral development for the Guatemalan people.

“The volcanoes will be there when we are no longer here, and that is what we hope will happen with our work: that it will be a seed that will sprout in more worthy and just futures for all.” Dr. Carmen

Three thumb drive salute to 32 Volcanos for their novel, vigorous and compassionate programs in Guatemala.

Volcano Fuego. Photo from Wikimedia.

Who Knew? A mountain range of 32 volcanoes crosses the entire Guatemalan territory.  The name of this organization refers to one of the most emblematic characteristics of their country. Several volcanos last erupted in the Holocene Period, but Fuego erupted recently in 2018.

Congestive Heart Failure: Bring on the Leeches?

Wikimedia photo.

The April edition of Right on Prime covers everything you need to know about congestive heart failure from the definition to palliative care, including advice on therapeutic phlebotomy. No matter where you practice you will find breath-taking take home points. Take a listen or read: The Generalist: Acute and End Stage CHF in the ED by Vanessa Cardy MD, Mel Herbert MD, and Heidi James MD in the April edition of Right on Prime available to all CMES participants using either the CMES thumb drive or Pi.

Leech application tubes and blood letting tool, probably from 1800s. Photo from Wikimedia.

Who Knew? Bloodletting (or blood-letting) is the withdrawal of blood from a patient to prevent or cure illness and disease. Bloodletting, now called therapeutic phlebotomy, whether by a physician or by leeches, was based on an ancient system of medicine in which blood and other bodily fluids were regarded as “humours” that had to remain in proper balance to maintain health. It is claimed to have been the most common medical practice performed by surgeons from antiquity until the late 19th century, a span of almost 2,000 years. (article content from Wikipedia)

C3: Psychiatric Emergencies Part 2

Wikimedia image.

Last week I introduced you to C3, Continuous Core Content, the newest medical education available to all CMES and CMES-Pi participants. The March C3 content is part two of psychiatric emergencies covering depression, anxiety and eating disorders. You can access the C3 folder with the thumb drive or the smartphone apps using the CMES-Pi.

Do you know what endocrine disorder can mimic depression or that pulmonary emboli can present with a common and misleading psychiatric complaint? A quick read of the Take Home Points will lift your spirits and lessen your anxiety when faced with a psychiatric emergency.

Who Knew? Psychiatric illness were recognized over 4000 years ago In the second millennium B.C. in Mesopotamia where there are written accounts of depression. It was thought to be a spiritual condition and therefor treated by priests instead of healers.

Introducing C3: Continuous Core Content

Photo from Wikimedia.

WooHoo…C3 is here for your listening and viewing pleasure! EM:RAP has generously provided Techies Without Borders their C3 content to add to our cloud based server. This CME content is available to participants using either the thumb drive (USB) or Raspberry-Pi access options. It will be in a separate folder and you can use the Search for specific topics.

C3 is a clinical based review on how to assess and treat common and grave Emergency Department and Urgent Care complaints. It’s ideal for all practitioners wanting to review the basics efficiently and quickly. Think of it as your basic Lego set.

The same great MP3 and PDF formats are available. The audio file contains a focused summary at the end of the talk, so if you are short on time you can fast forward. The PDF files start off with the all important Take Home Points for a quick update. You can also test your knowledge with the uploaded questions and answers.

Build up or reinforce your basic knowledge with C3. Thank you EM:RAP.

Who Knew? “The Lego Group began in the workshop of Ole Kirk Christiansen (1891–1958), a carpenter from Billund, Denmark, who began making wooden toys in 1932.[7][8] In 1934, his company came to be called “Lego” derived from the Danish phrase leg godt [lɑjˀ ˈɡʌd], which means “play well”.” (Wikipedia)

 

 

TWB Nets Another Awesome Volunteer: Chris Close

Chris is a newcomer to Techies Without Borders, joining in January 2019. Currently Chris works as the Salesforce Platform Director for Owens & Minor in Richmond, Virginia. Prior to living and working in Richmond, he spent several years as a Salesforce consultant for Capgemini and was based in Houston, Texas. Chris holds a B.S.B.A in International Business from the University of Tulsa.

He brings a wealth of experience as our Salesforce Architect…along with his quirk sense of humor and love of all things galactic. He joined TWB to get us off spreadsheets and onto a modern platform, whicheffectively manages our data and streamlines organizational tasks.

In his free time, Chris enjoys rock climbing, hiking, camping, and all things in our national parks. However, Chris’ friends and family would tell you something with him is a little off, because he enjoys driving to as many national parks as possible, even if they are days away. He has driven to and camped in over 20 national parks and has plans for mor

 

1 2 3 9