Doctors turn into teachers


Gainesville's Dr. Kevin Ferguson, gives a guest lecture at the Ramathibodi Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday.

DAVID MASSEY/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 2:16 a.m.
Two Gainesville doctors, pediatrician Terrence Flotte and emergency medicine specialist Kevin Ferguson, are winding up an eight-day mission to Thailand to help survivors of the Dec. 26 tsunami.
Half a world away from Gainesville, the two doctors from the University of Florida College of Medicine spent Wednesday sharing their knowledge with doctors in the capital city of Bangkok.
Flotte and Ferguson found themselves on more familiar ground, teaching what they know about pediatrics and emergency medicine, after a week in the outlying provinces of Thailand, assisting in the medical and humanitarian relief effort. This was a day spent touring wards and giving guest lectures at the Ramathibodi Hospital in Bangkok.
Flotte, a pediatrician and pulmonary specialist, spoke with Dr. Aroonwan Preeutthipan, director of pediatric pulmonary medicine and her staff, about cystic fibrosis.
The Ramathibodi Hospital is currently treating a Thai patient with cystic fibrosis, a rare disease in that part of the world.
Flotte saw the patient, then spoke about his own pioneering research applying gene therapy in the treatment of cystic fibrosis, which is much more common in the United States than in Asia.
"It was an opportunity to teach and help a patient at the same time," Flotte said.
Preeutthipan completed her fellowship under Flotte's direction at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. She is hopeful about the developing relationship between doctors at Shands at the University of Florida and the staff at Ramathibodi Hospital.
"I hope we can improve our treatments and management as a result of help from Dr. Flotte," said Preeutthipan, who hopes to send two nurses to be trained in the Shands intensive care unit.
While Flotte was sharing his knowledge about pulmonary disorders, Ferguson was giving a guest lecture about trauma treatment to the Ramathibodi Hospital emergency room staff.
"Teaching medicine is something that already happens at home," said Ferguson, "and it's great to be able to extend that to the international community."
As he prepared to return to Gainesville, Ferguson reflected on the loss of his first patient Sunday. The 10-year-old girl he had been caring for had been in a cab with her family, on the way to the airport to go home. The car was struck by the tsunami wave.
Her brother and father were killed immediately. Nearly drowned, the girl was in intensive care. Her mother, being cared for just across the room, was recovering and would be fine, Ferguson reported.
Emotionally, however, she would have to deal with missing the funeral for her son and husband and now, with planning her daughter's funeral. "This story, while extremely sad, is very common here," Ferguson reflected.
As a gesture of good will and medical diplomacy, the team of two UF doctors, Shands nurses Loraine and Judy Oetter and Rotarian Ben Campen paid their own way and donated their time and knowledge to help the people of Thailand after the tsunami.
Once the team returns home, they want to explore options that will continue to provide support to those whose lives were changed forever on Dec. 26.

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