Over the past fifty years, the major cause of mortality and disability in Jamaica has shifted from communicable and infectious disease to chronic, non-communicable disease.
For Jamaicans, as is the case for many in the United States and around the world, diabetes is affecting an increasing proportion of the population. Managing diabetes requires a difficult balance of lifestyle changes (diet and exercise primarily) combined with medication. This treatment is often ineffective, resulting in long-term complications and early mortality.
Currently, ongoing clinical diabetes research exists throughout Kingston, Jamaica. However, diabetes research is siloed; researchers work at separately operated institutions within the city and rarely interact with one another. A newly established collaboration between UB and University of the West Indies (UWI)seeks to create a collaborative digital informatics network to enhance diabetes research throughout Kingston. A centralized, electronic clinical research database could facilitate communication and collaboration between investigators, while allowing for larger patient data sets, stronger data analysis, and higher overall quality of research projects. In the long term, an established informatics network could lead to improved treatment for those living with diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Over the summer of 2019, with support from the Community for Global Health Equity, Larry Gersz traveled to Jamaica to facilitate meetings with several of the key stakeholders involved in the creation of this informatics network. His aim was to identify and outline next steps to begin implementation of the network. While there, Gersz met with clinical investigators from Jamaica, UWI administrators, technology support companies, and many others. These meetings resulted in a project proposal and presentation that included phases for project implementation and the challenges that must be overcome to ensure the project’s success.
As a dual degree student in medicine and management, Gersz valued the opportunity to apply his medical and business backgrounds in one space. This trip provided an opportunity for him to apply systems-based thinking and project development in a medical context. Gersz learned the importance of working within existing systems to foster and develop positive change that will eventually lead to better patient outcomes. Next year, as Gersz enters his medical residency in pediatrics, his management training at UB and experience in Kingston, will inform his ability to initiate quality improvement projects that improve and advance the quality of medical care for his future patients.