Sainimere Boladuadua, Project Lead for the Rheumatic Heart Disease Prevention and Control Program with the Fiji Ministry of Health, gained confidence and new insights on effective ways to address public health issues during an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) to the United States focused on ‘Global Health Security.’ Upon her return to Fiji, she has realised that geographical remoteness doesn’t guarantee immunity to emerging infectious diseases. She now is looking to be more engaged in national pandemic preparedness efforts.
“I have learned from the U.S. professional counterparts about the different global health issues that they encounter and various ways they approached and addressed them,” said Boladuadua. “The exchange program has given me a better appreciation of the One Health approach and how the health of people is connected to the health of animals, plants and their shared environment.” One Health is a collaborative, multisectoral, and trans-disciplinary approach, working at the local, regional, national, and global levels with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes.
During her exchange program, she not only gained insights into how the United States helps in maintaining global health security, but also modified her perceptions about America. With the impressive exposure to many different cutting-edge innovations in infectious disease prevention and control, she noted that the United States also has a vast cultural diversity with people from every walks of life. “By engaging with American people in a non-professional space, I got a better understanding of their culture and ethos and how that informs how their country is run,” said Boladuadua. “Traveling with a diverse group of professional colleagues from 19 different countries was an education in itself about various cultures, people, food, political landscapes, health systems, and health problems. I have come back with a greatly increased network of colleagues both in the U.S. and internationally.”
The U.S. Embassy’s Regional Public Diplomacy Officer Rebecca Archer-Knepper said, “Dr. Boladuadua is a phenomenal example of the amazing people selected to go on this program. She is already making advances and making the most of her experience. We are thrilled she had such a good time on the IVLP program and using her skills to make Fiji safer and more secure.”
Boladuadua noted one of the key concepts she learned from her exchange programs was the value of networking and the exchange of ideas; adding “My previous visits to the U.S. have been ones of leisure, so I viewed and experienced the U.S. through a tourist lens. Visiting in a professional capacity and having the opportunity to get some insight into how things worked in the U.S. from an ‘inside’ view has been very impactful to the work that I do in Fiji.”
Boladuadua remains instrumental while working in areas of public health awareness in Fiji. She visions a potential for international collaboration for research and innovative health solutions highlighting that “We do not have to wait for our developed country institutions to initiate this process and offer collaborative partnership but it can start from our end. This IVLP supported to identify some big networks of professional colleagues and bodies in the U.S. and internationally that we in Fiji can draw on and learn from.”
“This IVLP program has changed my life and most of all has increased my understanding about the efforts in forecasting, preventing, treating and managing infectious diseases spread from animals to human populations, not forgetting the many friends and contacts I have built.”
The IVLP is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. To learn more about the program, visit https://eca.state.gov/ivlp