In 2001, Guyanese Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, invited Omni Med to Guyana to reproduce the successful Educational Model we had piloted in Belize. In October 2002, Dr James Eadie was then a Harvard Medical student who had done some of the structural building of Omni Med's program in Belize. Together with Dr John O'Brien, Dr Eadie traveled to Guyana and launched a similar educational program. Following return trips with Drs O'Brien, O'Neil, and Mogielnicki, Dr Eadie was able to build a successful model. Focused on Georgetown Hospital in the capital, the program had visiting physicians spend most of the time there, and then travel to the New Amsterdam Hospital near the border of Suriname, and to other clinics for "grand rounds" styled settings. Subsequently, Dr John Varallo, on Ob-Gyn physician from Washington D.C. joined in the program development. Dr Varallo became interested in the cervical cancer in the country, only to find that no formal screening program existed.
As Dr Eadie became engrossed in the challenges of a residency in Emergency Medicine at the combined Brigham-MGH program in Boston, Dr Varallo continued to build relationships in Guyana. Frequently accompanied by Dr John O'Brien, Dr Varallo worked with several colleagues at Georgetown Hospital and developed a cervical screening model using direct visual inspection. Omni Med purchased the program's first LEEP machine, in which the precancerous lesions could then be cryogenically frozen and removed, with a 95% success rate of preventing cervical cancers when lesions were found. The program proved highly successful and became the model for Guyana's national cervical screening program. The CDC featured Dr Varallo's work on its website. On September 8, 2008, when President George W Bush highlighted the success of the Volunteers in Prosperity Program, utilizing highly skilled Americans in service abroad, Dr Varallo was singled out for praise.
Dr Varallo teamed up with researchers from JHPIEGO, and eventually, moved the program with him there. While we would have certainly preferred for Dr Varallo to remain with us at Omni Med, we also recognized fully the time and resources he needed to fully develop his vision. Dr Varallo subsequently received an MPH degree from George Washington University, and doubled down on his work in Guyana. His efforts led to a massive expansion of cervical cancer coverage in the country and he was the principle author of the country's cervical cancer prevention and treatment policy and guidelines. He has trained many physicians, nurses and others in a train the trainer model that focuses on outreach to distant rural locations, of which there are many in Guyana. Providers he has trained screen upwards of 5000 women per year and eliminate over 800 pre-cancerous lesions annually. JHPIEGO hired him full-time. Today, he works as a senior technical advisor to JHPIEGO, and has brought cervical cancer screening to Belize, Botswana, Tanzania, Uganda, Guatemala and many other countries.
In 2010, Maureen Reinsel nominated Dr Varallo as a Women't Health Hero." Here is what she wrote:
"Dr. Varallo works with the most vulnerable women, and inspires others to join him through education and collaboration... As someone who dreams of one day being a women’s health nurse and who works in the field of international public health, I am surrounded by people who spend their days endeavoring to improve health care globally. Nonetheless, Dr. Varallo stands out as someone with a unique level of commitment. He has inspired in me a real passion for preventing cervical cancer, and has earned my admiration through the genuine kindness and the respect that he demonstrates to everyone he works with, from clients to community health workers, from student nurses to the Minister of Health.
Dr. Varallo is my Women’s Health Hero."
Omni Med has not been involved in Guyana since 2004, but we are all very proud of all that Dr Varallo and his colleagues have done in Guyana and beyond since then.
Dr Varallo lecturing at Georgetown Hospital, Guyana left, and with staff at outreach clinic in Moruca. Below, getting to the outreach through Guyana's forests.
Dr James Eadie, second from right front row, with Guyanese medical students
Dr John Varallo and Maureen Reinsel (above), during first excursions in rural Guyana (below)
Dr John O'Brien at the bedside with Guyanan colleague reviewing CT.
Dr Peter Mogielnicki teaching Georgetown Medical Students