By Jessica Murray

I came to Belize as part of my field placement experience for my Masters of Public Health program. As an epidemiology student, I am interested in who has disease and why. Currently, there is an epidemic of chronic kidney disease of unknown origin in the Mesoamerican region. Chronic kidney disease of unknown origin or Mesoamerican nephropathy has been seen in countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica; however, we do not quite know if it has made its way to Belize as there is no published data on this disease here.

I came with a surgery resident and her attending physician to Belize to work at La Loma Luz Hospital to do research (chart reviews and patient interviews) on this topic. There has been a lot of difficulty in getting my research project approved with the hospital and the Ministry of Health in Belize; however, I was successful and have finally been able to start my project. So far it’s been a great experience to do international research, as well getting to know people in Belize, about how they live, and the problems they face regarding healthcare. 

While waiting for this project to be approved, I collected data for a pain control study. Patients in Belize do not receive narcotic pain medication after surgery and they recover just fine. In the United States patients typically receive narcotic pain medication following surgery, which may be contributing to the opioid epidemic in the US.

In Belize, I am recording patients' pain levels before and after surgery (for gallbladder surgeries only) and these results will be compared to pain levels of gallbladder surgery patient’s in the US. The resident has successfully performed several laparoscopic cholestectomies and we continue to get cases in clinic daily. I’ve been lucky enough to shadow her on a few of her surgeries. 

Belize has not been all work though. During our free time, we have conquered the Mayan caves of Barton Creek and Actun Tunichil Muknal and the ruins of Xuantunich. The upcoming week will be our last week in Belize. We intend to see more of the sights and further our work at the hospital.