Dr Temea Kibae Bauro was born and raised in Makin, the northern island of Central Kiribati. Makin is a small island with a population of around 2,000 and is covered in lush vegetation, nurtured by high annual rainfall. It is also an island in a country with relatively high rates of leprosy and other treatable skin conditions.
In 2019, Dr Bauro was among the first four students to graduate with a Postgraduate Diploma in Dermatology from Fiji National University. He’s also the proud father of a four year old daughter and is married to one of his medical school classmates.
Like many doctors in Pacific countries, Dr Bauro studied medicine overseas, firstly in Cuba at Escuela de Latinoamericana Medicina and then at the Universidad de Ciencia Medica in Cienfuego. He returned home to Kiribati for his internship during which he became aware of the size of the leprosy problem in Kiribati and decided to focus on leprosy patients. “I did an attachment with the Pacific Leprosy Foundation team from New Zealand. They advised me to complete specialist dermatological training to elevate my knowledge of leprosy as part of dermatology.”
With sponsorship from the Foundation, Dr Bauro was then given the opportunity to undertake Dermatology training at the Pacific Dermatology Training Centre while working at Fiji’s national skin disease centre located in the Tamavua Twomey Hospital in Suva.
Kiribati has a strategic plan for health, supported by the World Health Organisation. Its primary goal is to improve population health and health equity through continuous improvement in the quality and responsiveness of its health services. Identified cases of leprosy have dramatically increased over the last 15 years, with co-operation between the Ministry of Health, the Pacific Leprosy Foundation and the WHO based in New Zealand. Kiribati remains one of the few Pacific island countries not to have achieved elimination (or less than 10 per 100,000 per year) of leprosy as a public health problem.
Having doctors like Dr Bauro with dermatology expertise in Kiribati has the potential to significantly improve the lives and health outcomes for their people.
Dr Bauro said he enjoyed studying dermatology in Fiji and wants to continue his learning in this field – “I learned about more variety of skin diseases than I could learn about in Kiribati where the population is mostly only one race. I also learned a lot from Dr Tuicakau, Dr Whitfeld and other associate professors from Australia. I wish to continue my study if time allows. This would be for the benefit of my people, because until now we have not had a dermatologist to offer this service.”
Like most Pacific countries, Kiribati is facing more medical challenges than usual during the COVID19 pandemic. There is a shortage of medication and other essential medical supplies for hospitals due to the shutdown of aviation. Dr Bauro says there is also a shortage of staff in medical facilities, including doctors, as they are in other countries trying to meet the demand caused by the pandemic. At the time of writing, Kiribati has no confirmed cases of COVID19 within its borders and Dr Bauro, remains optimistic: “We are safe from this disease for now, being isolated in our home island.”