International impact: Keeping up with Fogarty Fellow Matthew Bartek

 

Lima Peru
Third-year medical student Matthew Bartek is in Lima, Peru, almost four months into a 10-month Fogarty Fellowship

 

At any given time of year, there are scores of students, faculty and researchers off campus—some way, way off campus in places, such as the Dominican Republic, Peru, Ghana, Liberia—providing aid, serving fellowships and gaining experience they can apply to their work, and their patients, here at home. As an ongoing, periodic feature on UMassMedNow, we will profile some of these travelers and offer some insight into the impact—both small scale and large—that the people of UMMS are making on our world.

While his classmates are in clinic at UMass Memorial Medical Center or other medical sites in and around Worcester, third-year medical student Matthew Bartek is in Lima, Peru, almost four months into a 10-month Fogarty Fellowship, which is allowing him to participate in intense, international clinical research.

Bartek was selected for a prestigious Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholars Fellowship, a program funded by the National Institutes of Health and administered by Vanderbilt University Institute for Global Health, that provides students a unique opportunity to gain clinical research training in a developing country while working with mentors to advance public health. (See the related press release issued when Bartek received the fellowship.)

After training at both the NIH in Bethesda, Md., and the University of Washington School of Medicine, where his mentor, Joseph Zunt, MD, MPH, is on faculty, Bartek arrived in Peru in August and has worked to establish several research projects, brush up on his Spanish and understand Peruvian culture. Based in the Miraflores district of Lima, he has spent his time developing relationships with a variety of Peruvian hospitals and public health institutions in order to better understand the Peruvian health system, patient care and opportunities for clinical research that can bridge his own interests and those of his Peruvian counterparts. In addition, he’s been able to learn about Peru’s culture (a rich mix that draws upon its winding history), food (Peru is said to have more than 150 native types of cuisine and 400 species of potato), and even travel outside of urban Lima (he participated in the Great River Amazon Raft Race outside of Iquitos in the northern Amazon basin). Bartek is currently managing three projects: one related to tapeworm infections common to the highland region of Peru; a second analyzing two surgical methods of hernia repair; and a third evaluating the implementation and effect of a nationwide surgical checklist program.

Bartek frequently updates and posts photos on his blog, “Bartek’s Trek,” to keep friends, relatives and classmates current on his work and his experience in Peru, and he stays in touch through technology. “The world is much smaller than it was even a few years ago,” he says. “I have e-mail, two Peruvian cell phones, a Skype account and Google Voice. All in all, I’m pretty well connected … except when I travel to the jungle or highlands.”

A native of Newton and a graduate of Dartmouth College, Bartek is the third UMMS student to receive a Fogarty Fellowship. Lara Jirmanus of Medford conducted HIV research in Brazil in 2008-2009, and Avra Gardner Ackerman of Groton worked in Uganda testing a screening method for tuberculosis and HIV in 2007-2008. Both graduated from UMMS in June 2010.

Bartek was also a 2008-2009 Albert Schweitzer Fellow. For that fellowship, he and UMMS student Abraham Jaffe helped to grow the Akwaaba Health Initiative, a community-based effort to address the unmet health needs of the African immigrant population in Worcester.