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  2003 Jun 1 Release.
  For Immediate Release.
  Contact: Rich Belanger 212-675-2658
  Bonnie Arkus 609-771-9600

Rutgers University professor delivers primary care to indigenous population in Peru

June3, 2003, New Brunswick, NJ - Dr. Kathleen C. Ashton, Clinical Associate Professor of Nursing, Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Camden, was selected to receive The Rutgers College Class of 1962 Presidential Public Service Award. The award was given in recognition of her extensive contributions to public service on the local, state and international level as well as her tireless effort to educate women about heart disease. Additionally, Dr. Ashton has been cited for her contributions to improving the health of people in some of the world's poorest nations through her missions to deliver primary medical care to the Cuna Indians in Panama and to the poor of Lima, Peru. There were a total of twenty-three award recipients recognized by Dr. Richard L. McCormick, president of the University.

Dr. Ashton, a nurse researcher and advanced practice nurse, was nominated for the Presidential Public Service Award by the Women's Heart Foundation and the Department of Nursing for her work in developing new wellness programs for the Foundation over the past twelve years. In 1999, Dr. Ashton contributed to the development of WHF's Medication Safety Program, a community health initiative to raise awareness about preventing a medication-related illness. Next month Dr. Ashton is leaving for Lima, Peru to deliver primary care to the poor and to establish a WHF Healthy Heart Network Community, a medical resource and wellness station. Dr. Ashton is concerned about the level of health of the men and women in Peru. "Heart disease is the number one killer of the Peruvian people just as it is elsewhere in the world. Cigarette smoking is a growing health problem. The tobacco industry has successfully marketed to third world countries where people lack access to the primary healthcare needed to fight the ravages of smoking and other threats to their health. They have so little and they suffer from the same illnesses as we do. Can you imagine what it would be like to deal with illnesses related to tobacco use such as lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease with almost no resources?", she said.

Dr. Ashton described what some of her past trips have been like, caring for the Peruvian people. "They think they are a forgotten people living in the depths of poverty in the capital city. One person said to me 'How did you find me? How did you know I was here and needed help?' One woman had been carrying her son on her back for two days to bring him into the clinic. She had his two small children in tow. She told us that her son had a toothache and that the tooth had gotten infected. We incised and drained the man's cheek. Three cups of purulent matter drained out. We irrigated the wound several times during the week-long campaign with penicillin mixed in a bag of intravenous fluid. If he had the means, he could have purchased penicillin for about two dollars. Instead, this 24-year old father was semi-comatose and near death. By the second day of the clinic he was sitting up and responding. Last year, he came back to see us with his family looking quite robust and healthy. He thanked us.

"Then there was a 32-year-old woman who had severe shortness of breath. She had a small child with her. She told us that she knew she needed heart surgery but she had no money. She said that she had had a mitral valve condition that worsened after a severe infection. She could barely breathe. There is a local doctor who works with us at the clinic. He and another person named Flor who helps us as a translator were able to get the young mother into the Institute for the Poor in Lima. I heard she had a successful heart valve replacement and is now doing very well. These were two of the most dramatic medical situations that I have encountered."

Dr. Ashton has been traveling to Lima for the past three years to deliver primary medical care to almost 2000 individuals during each campaign. The people are made aware of the upcoming medical visits by pamphlets that are distributed door-to-door and by word -of-mouth. Teens accompany the mission workers and go into the schools to play with the children and teach basic hygiene. The medical mission works out of the local church. Thievery, illicit drugs and gang wars are rampant so all of the medical supplies are kept locked inside the church and under guard, said Dr. Ashton. The trips are being coordinated by the Churches of Christ and the Latin American Missions.

Healthy Heart Network Community is a program of the Women's Heart Foundation. Information materials are translated into Spanish and are also available in a PDF Health Library in Spanish at its website www.womensheartfoundation.org. For more information, you may contact the Women's Heart Foundation, P.O. Box, 7827, West Trenton, NJ 08682. Phone 609.771.9600 / Fax 609.771.9427.

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