A joint team from the University of Hawai’i (UH) Pacific Basin Telehealth Resource Center (PBTRC), Indiana University (IU) and Maurer Dermatology Associates (MDA) were in American Samoa from the 5th until the 8th of December 2022, as a follow-up to the 2022 United States Affiliated Pacific Island Countries and Territories (USAPICT) Telehealth Workshop held in August. The key objective of the trip to American Samoa was to identify options for providing dermatology services to Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center (LBJ) and American Samoa Department of Health (ASDOH) through telehealth. “We need to maximize technology through the use of telehealth, and teledermatology is the next step to providing health care to American Samoa” (LBJ CEO Emmsley). The team included Dr. Toby Maurer, MD, founder of MDA; Mr. David Felker, System Administrator of IU; and Ms. Britanica Sene, MPH from UH PBTRC.
Dr. Maurer specializes in HIV dermatology and infectious diseases,and is also a Professor of Clinical Dermatology at Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSOM). Dermatology is critical to treat benign skin problems or life-threatening illnesses, such as skin cancer and other related conditions. Understanding that there are no certified dermatologists residing in American Samoa, the team sought to coordinate with LBJ and DOH to identify a proposed strategy to acquire Dr. Maurer’s help to treat dermatology patients using telehealth. With teledermatology, American Samoa would greatly benefit from increased access to care for patients, decrease in patient wait time, and provide high standard dermatology care and reduce costs in off-island referrals.
The team met with CEO Bill Emmsley, Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Akapusi Ledua and the LBJ Telehealth Initiative Committee chaired by Dr. Ledua, Vice Chair Dr. Ben Siatuu, Dr. Kamlesh Kumar, Dr. Ana Jane Bontia, and Dr. Gary Bernabe. The team also met with ASDOH Clinical Director, Dr. Elisapeta Lauvao and physician, Dr. Fiona Traill.
The trip to American Samoa concludes a 2-week long site visit to the Pacific Territories of Guam, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and American Samoa.