Scholarship supports the one and only Dr Monteiro
As Timor-Leste's first and only cardiologist, Dr Andre Monteiro, 41, is pioneering the treatment of heart patients in his young nation. A generous donor enabled East Timor Hearts Fund to award Dr Monteiro its first annual $10,000 scholarship, as part of a commitment to supporting improved health capacity in Timor-Leste. Supported by the scholarship, in November 2016 Dr Monteiro spent three weeks at the leading Australian cardiac service, MonashHeart in Melbourne.
Dr Monteiro says the scholarship is already benefitting his practice and his patients since his return to Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares in Dili, Timor-Leste’s major public hospital.
"The scholarship gave me a valuable chance to experience Australia's healthcare system and it's amazing to see how well planned it is compared to our new country. Professionally, the training made me feel more experienced and self-confident in diagnosing heart cases through echocardiography. This technology uses ultrasound to view and take pictures of the heart while it's in motion. In Timor, we don't have technicians to do the echocardiography. I do it all – I see the patients and I do the echocardiograms myself, analyse the results and provide the diagnosis.
The MonashHeart course covered a broad range of areas in just three weeks, with simulator training, cardiology inpatient and outpatient clinics, echocardiography and paediatric cardiology. Since returning to Timor, the MonashHeart training enables me to diagnose the paediatric cardiology disease cases earlier, which means patients get referred for surgery sooner, with better outcomes.
With paediatric cardiology, frequently caused by rheumatic heart disease, it is distressing to see young lives held back by debilitating symptoms. After surgery, when the young patients see me for a check up, I always praise the Lord that their health is improving very quickly and they are able to live as normal children.
The scholarship also led to good relationships with fellow heart specialists in Melbourne, which will help when communicating with them about East Timor Hearts Fund cases. I would love to return to MonashHeart to take their formal course in intervention cardiology. My country needs this expertise the most, to save lives in cardiac arrest cases.
If I look back on my career, I see that scholarships enabled me to become a cardiologist. After high school, I became the only Timorese student to ever receive a full scholarship from the Indonesian government to study medicine at the prestigious University of Indonesia. After returning to Timor as a GP, I saw there was a critical lack of heart specialists to meet this overwhelming need. Then I received a scholarship funded by the Timor government to take the cardiology program at University of Padjajaran in Bandung, Indonesia. Now the East Timor Hearts Fund scholarship has opened more possibilities for me to improve heart treatment in Timor-Leste.
Scholarships have had many positive impacts on my life and, through my medical work, so many other lives. This raises an important question: If we can help others now, why wait until later? Helping young patients through East Timor Hearts Fund is the best way because it changes their lives, and especially their quality of life. And we can see the difference in how they are able to transform their lives in the future.
Donating to support scholarships that improve the capacity of local doctors in Timor-Leste will enable them to identify which patients are in most need of medical help, a critical decision in a country with very limited medical resources."
Read Dr Andre's story in our 2016 annual report here.