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A trip to the interior of Suriname


My first visit to Suriname
Baruch Blumberg Physician
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Another important experience I had in medical school was, I had always, I had never been in the tropics, and I... the literal of my imagination, you know, the coastline of my imagination, the shore was based on all the books that I read. I'm a... I’m a sort of a son of the Carnegie Library system, I used to, you know, go in, withdraw six books, and come back a week later and get another six, and that's what many of my friends did too. So I read a lot and then I... I went to the movies, and I was a theatre usher, that meant I saw... they used to have theatre ushers, you know, people who took you to your seat. And I’d  see the same movie, you know, ten, fifteen times, I could recite the whole text, you know, the whole script. But the movies of that period were very kind of moral, very uplifting, very, you know, they were filled with adventure, discovery and... and the good guys were really good guys, you know. There was a much... there’s a much different ethical or moral tone, you know, to the contemp... where you have heroes who are not righteous, you know, in a lot of ways. So I wanted...  I’d read a lot of books about the... about the tropics and... and about explorations, I'd read a lot of books on travel exploration and decided that I'd like to go and work in the tropics, so I spoke to our professor of parasitology there; we had a very good course in tropical medicine. When I went to medical school many of our teachers had been in the military and a lot of them had been in the South Pacific, some in Africa, and they knew a lot about tropical medicine. So we had a very good course on that and a pretty good course on public health. So I asked him if he had some suggestions and he right way said, ‘Well, I have been consulting on the treatment of... of filariasis in... in Suriname’. Now Suriname is a... is a country in northern South America; it's between Guyana and French Guiana and at that time is a Dutch colony in 19... that would have been 1949 or thereabouts. And there was a... it was one of the main suppliers of bauxite ore during the war and actually in... in '49 it was a major supplier as well. They had a big open-pit mine in several locations, but the one that I went to was in a place called Moengo, M-O-E-N-G-O,  and that was on the Cottica River so it... it was about a day's journey by... by launch. They had this beautiful, you know, motor launch with a canopy, with fringe on it, you know,  a fairly good-sized ship. There were no roads, there were no railroads, and there was no airstrip and there were no helicopters in... in those days, so if you wanted to get there, you either paddled in a canoe, or went on one of these launches. But it was also an ocean-going port; they can take 7000 ton war boats right up a hundred plus miles up the Cottica River. So I worked there for about... for two months...  about two months, three months maybe, and it was a... it was a great experience. First of all, I mean, it was... it was high bush, it was impenetrable jungle. There were very few walking paths actually and if you did, you always, you know, you had to cut... carry a machete and cut your way through, or better yet, have somebody else with a machete. It was... they have... they have these horrendous poisonous snakes, they have big ones like anacondas, you know, and boa constrictors, pythons, big... and crocodiles, caimans.


American research physician Baruch Blumberg (1925-2011) was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1976 along with D Carleton Gajdusek for their work on the origins and spread of infectious viral diseases that led to the discovery of the hepatitis B virus. Blumberg’s work covered many areas including clinical research, epidemiology, virology, genetics and anthropology.

Listeners: Rebecca Blanchard

Dr Rebecca Blanchard is Director of Clinical Pharmacology at Merck & Co., Inc. in Upper Gwynedd, Pennsylvania. Her education includes a BSc in Pharmacy from Albany College of Pharmacy and a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. While at Utah, she studied in the laboratories of Dr Raymond Galinsky and Dr Michael Franklin with an emphasis on drug metabolism pathways. After receiving her PhD, Dr Blanchard completed postdoctoral studies with Dr Richard Weinshilboum at the Mayo Clinic with a focus on human pharmacogenetics. While at Mayo, she cloned the human sulfotransferase gene SULT1A1 and identified and functionally characterized common genetic polymorphisms in the SULT1A1 gene. From 1998 to 2004 Dr Blanchard was an Assistant Professor at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. In 2005 she joined the Clinical Pharmacology Department at Merck & Co., Inc. where her work today continues in the early and late development of several novel drugs. At Merck, she has contributed as Clinical Pharmacology Representative on CGRP, Renin, Losartan, Lurasidone and TRPV1 programs and serves as chair of the TRPV1 development team. Dr Blanchard is also Co-chair of the Neurology Pharmacogenomics Working Group at Merck. Nationally, she has served the American Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics on the Strategic Task Force and the Board of Directors. Dr Blanchard has also served on NIH study sections, and several Foundation Scientific Advisory Boards.

Tags: Carnegie Library, Suriname, Moenego, Cottica River

Duration: 4 minutes, 21 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 28 September 2009