Improving healthcare from Milwaukee to Tanzania and beyond

April 29, 2021

Quamaine Bond, a medical student at the Medical College of Wisconsin, knows why he chose his professional field: To build meaningful relationships with patients and encouraging them to take control of their own health.

“To be able to be a physician who can help treat people, but also incorporate patient preferences into treatment plans,” Bond said. “That’s kind of why I fell in love with medicine.”

It’s an appreciation the Milwaukee native gained while still a student at Custer High School. At 15, he got the opportunity to participate in a healthcare training program, his entryway to the field. He stuck with it. Through the rest of high school and as an undergrad up until he enrolled in medical school, he worked in healthcare.

“I worked in an ER; I worked in healthcare facilities that specialized in cardiology, dementia, and geriatric care,” Bond said. “I spent a good 9 to 10 years working in hospitals and nursing homes and doing home healthcare and I truly loved it.”

Since starting medical school, Bond has been able to pursue several other passions of his, including helping undeserved populations gain access to healthcare.

And he’s doing it on a global scale. This past summer, Bond participated in a research project focused on expanding access to healthcare in Tanzania, a country in East Africa. Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented his ability to conduct the research in person, the crisis did highlight the importance of expanding access to telemedicine as an effective way to treat patients.

“Many [Tanzanians] have to travel for hours to gain access to any specialized skin treatment or to see a dermatologist,” Bond said.

The Dr. Elaine Kohler Summer Academy of Global Health Research program encourages talented MCW medical students to enter the research field during a 10-week hands-on experience after their first year of medical school. Over the course of the summer, students split their research experience addressing health disparities both locally in Milwaukee and internationally with our faculty’s global collaborators. This mentored experience allows students the opportunity to address global health issues.

Bond’s project allowed care providers in remote areas and other rural places of Tanzania to submit photos via the internet, usually of a patient’s skin, to dermatologists at MCW.

This project was initiated by his MCW faculty mentor, Karolyn Wanat, MD, associate professor of dermatology and her long-term relationship with medical colleagues at the Ifakara Research Institute and Bagamoyo Hospital in Northeastern Tanzania. MCW dermatology specialists, in conjunction with the local provider, would set a treatment plan.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Quamaine helped to advance our global collaborative project using teledermatology to take care of those patients who would not otherwise have access to specialized dermatology care,” Dr. Wanat said “He and our other medical student, Megan Yee, brainstormed creative ways to move the project forward, and our regular virtual meetings with our Tanzanian partners was an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with them over the summer. These local efforts laid the groundwork for the growing global health project.”

The project helped to improve the local health care providers’ confidence in treating dermatological conditions and decrease wait times for people to access those services, Bond explained.

This was extremely important considering access to dermatological services in Tanzania can be scarce and also because some skin conditions can progress to life-altering conditions, Bond said. Telemedicine also helped patients overcome hurdles such as not having access to childcare, transportation reliability, and decreased risk for hospital-acquired illnesses, lessons that can be carried over when treating patients in Milwaukee, he added.

“We have people who are unable to make appointments for a myriad of reasons,” Bond said. “Being able to see a provider from the comfort of your own home, I think would be very beneficial to Milwaukee.”

He believes that many of the practices and lessons gained globally could be applied to Milwaukee and other parts of the United States where healthcare access can be limited based on people’s race, ethnicity, religion and socioeconomic status. It’s also beneficial to understand global health because America houses people from different parts of the world and from many diverse cultures.

“I wanted to begin to understand what the healthcare infrastructures are like in other countries,” Bond said. That way I can better serve as a physician in America because you have a better understanding of where they’re coming from.”

Another area of passion that Bond has been able to explore at MCW is working with youth. One of those experiences was supporting a science fair at the Wisconsin State Fair Grounds that involved students from Milwaukee Public Schools.

“That was a great opportunity because I’m a product of MPS, so to give back to middle and high schoolers who are interested in science and share my passion for medicine was amazing,” Bond said.

Quamaine Bond, youth learning experience in Milwaukee

He also had the opportunity to work with Milwaukee youth through MCW’s Student National Medical Association which includes programming toward increasing diversity and inclusion in medicine by offering mock interviews, campus tours and hands-on learning experiences.

Aside from that work, Bond also serves as the clinic chair of the Psychiatry and Mental Health Student Association at MCW, where he works with physicians and other students to coordinate volunteer work to provide free mental health services to uninsured residents of Milwaukee.

As far as what his future holds, Bond isn’t sure yet, though he would like to remain in Milwaukee. If his profession takes him elsewhere, he wants it to be in a diverse area where he can work with underserved communities.

Regardless of where he ends up, Bond says, he will focus on building partnerships, which he calls the key to making a difference. “There is power in numbers,” Bond shares. “Medicine is important to know but relationships are just as vital.”