In May, Dr Fiona Kupe attended the Fondation Mérieux, Advanced Course of Vaccinology in France. She was supported by the R E Ross Trust Regional Child Health Fellowship Program, which is administered through the Centre for International Child Health.
‘Halfway through medical school I realised I wanted to work in child health. I loved children and being quite short, I thought I would be especially suited to working with small patients!
‘I have been working as a General Paediatrician for four years now in Port Moresby, PNG. I spend about half of my time treating sick children. The rest of my job involves other child health activities such as immunisation, nutrition, school health programs.
‘I want to improve immunisation coverage in PNG. Currently, in Papua New Guinea less than 60% of the population is vaccinated. To protect the entire community from vaccine preventable diseases, e.g. measles, we need to make sure that over 95% of the population is vaccinated.
‘For a country with limited resources, immunisation is an affordable way to improve people’s health. This is true for governments, and also for families. If children are vaccinated, families can save money on costly doctor’s visits and hospitalisations.
‘To achieve this we need more government support for health funding, staffing, and national coordination. Child health workers need this support to deliver life-saving services to our country’s children.
‘In May, I travelled to France to attend the ten-day Advanced Course of Vaccinology (ADVAC), run by the Fondation Mérieux and the University of Geneva. The course included an intensive program of lectures, and covered all aspects of immunisation: from the provision of vaccines, to policy and advocacy to governments.
‘On my way, I visited the Melbourne Children’s Immunisation Clinic at RCH. I attended a day of vaccine teaching and a clinic on the World Health Organisation Expanded Program on Immunisation (EPI).
‘I hope to learn strategies and lessons from other countries with successful immunisation track records. I want to apply these in my country, to improve immunisation coverage and prevent deaths from vaccine preventable diseases.
‘The best part of being a paediatrician is seeing a parent’s reaction when their sick child finally makes a recovery. Knowing that you were part of that, that satisfaction is what I enjoy the most about my work.