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V.I. INVENTIVENESS NOTED AT MEDICAL CONFERENCE

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March 3, 2002 – Physicians and other health-care professionals from the U.S. mainland joined their counterparts on St. Thomas Friday and Saturday to discuss current issues affecting the health of the nation's African-American community.
The occasion was the National Medical Association's Clinical Practices and Management Update conference at Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort.
Participants discussed ways to get their diabetic patients to be more cooperative in their eating and self-testing habits, and the latest emergency treatment for heart attacks. Presenters focused on the facts about Alzheimer's Disease among African-Americans, with the latest research showing a higher incidence of this brain-wasting disease at a younger age in this population. Also high on the agenda was the continuing spread of AIDS and HIV in the United States and in the Caribbean.
Doctors attending the conference received credits from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.
Among the presenters were Virgin Islanders: Dr. Cora Christian and Beverly Blackwell, director of the Health Department's immunization program. Blackwell told attendees of a host of goals and challenges yet to be met in protecting people in the territory from infectious diseases. Shortages of pneumonia and flu vaccines, she said, are leaving portions of the population unprotected.
To address those problems, Christian said, she and her colleagues have devised some creative approaches to problem solving. For example, on St. Croix recently, she said, flu vaccine was flown in as part of V.I. National Guard exercise, then turned over to immunization care givers for distribution at a health fair in the Frederiksted area. As a result, Christian said, one third of the island's Medicaid recipients were given flu shots. The doctor called it a good use of "defense dollars."
The NMA, a predominantly African-American professional association, has been around in the United States since the 1860s, its president, Dr. Lucille Perez, said. It got its start when doctors of African descent were barred from joining the American Medical Association. In order to practice medicine, "you had to belong to a medical society," Perez said. "So, we formed our own." Today the organization represents 25,000 doctors nationwide.
Sponsors of this year's clinical practices conference included Christensen's office and the Tourism Department Perez said participation by Christensen, who is a physician, was especially welcome because the delegate chairs the Congressional Black Caucus Health Brain Trust. Christensen is the only female physician in the House of Representatives, and she can wield a lot of clout in national health policies affecting African-Americans, Perez said, adding, "We're very proud of Donna."

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