MY MOST SATISFYING WORK in TV news in Seattle, Russia, and Uzbekistan has focused on health and medical issues. However, at best my reports only illuminated, rather than resolved, serious medical issues and stories in just one broadcast to a limited viewing audience—whether that audience was 50,000 in Seattle or 70 million viewers in Russia. That was frustrating. I wanted to do more.
I recently returned to Seattle after several years in Montana, amazed at the growth of global health in this region during my absence. I want to know more about global health, so in my spare time I’ve studied microbiology; anatomy/physiology; emerging infectious diseases; chemistry; statistics; and nutrition, along with global health seminars and lectures at the University of Washington. My goal is to build on my communications background as a communicator or project manager specializing in global health issues–infectious diseases and vaccines are especially interesting to me.
GETTING SICK SPARKED MY INTEREST in multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, or MDR-TB. It’s growing at an alarming rate worldwide, in Central Asia, and notably in Uzbekistan where I lived and worked as a senior correspondent reporting in Russian for Soviet TV.
I’m very healthy, making it all the more strange that I became seriously ill in 2008 while traveling with an official delegation in Uzbekistan. Suspicious, my doctor tested me for TB: thankfully, negative. (It turned out I had severe food poisoning along with lingering bronchitis, laryngitis and pneumonia, lasting seven months.) My own TB scare opened my eyes to the ease in spreading infectious diseases, and the lack of adequate detection and treatment in so much of the world.
That suspicion that I had tuberculosis, and the process of being tested for it sparked my interest in that disease. It also sparked me to write a paper on tuberculosis and MDR-TB for an introductory global health class. Called “Seasick: The Explosion of Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan,” it focuses on that country’s challenges with MDR-TB. Based on that initial research and that initial paper, I’ve twice given presentations on this deadly disease.
[NOTE: I’M A BOARD DIRECTOR of the Seattle-Tashkent Sister City Association; through their auspices I hope to do far more on a governmental level in addressing the health concerns and needs not only of Uzbekistan, but of all five former Soviet Central Asia republics. Beyond tuberculosis, gynecological cancers and an emergency response infrastructure are also pressing health concerns in this region, as is reliable post-Soviet primary health care access and delivery of prescription drugs.]
While working in the former Soviet Union in 1990, through the help of top government officials I visited Chernobyl—only the fourth Western TV reporter to do so at that time. The ghost town of Pripyat; the workers who remained, exposed to radiation and knowing their death sentences; the empty houses, shutters banging, tricycles tipped; the lucky children taken to hospitals in Kiev for barebones thyroid-cancer treatment.
These images are DNAed into me…