IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers| IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers|

Travel Health Journal

Bringing Travel Medicine to a Travel Hot-Spot: Meet IAMAT Scholar Nsisong Asanga

We are pleased to introduce you to our latest Scholar, Dr. Nsisong Asanga.

Nsisong is the Medical Director of the Victor Attah International Airport Clinic in Uyo, Nigeria. Last fall, Dr. Asanga was awarded the IAMAT Stella and George Bryant Travel Medicine Scholarship.

IAMAT Scholars, like Nsisong, are passionate and dedicated leaders. Upon graduation, our Scholars return to their communities to teach their colleagues and apply their new skills to improve healthcare practices in their clinics, benefitting travellers and local patients.

For her training, Nsisong travelled to London, England where she completed a travel medicine short course at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), and participated in clinical observations at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and pre-travel clinic observations at the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

We recently reached out to Nsisong to learn more about her experience as an IAMAT Scholar and how she hopes to expand her travel medicine practice in Nigeria.

Why Travel Medicine?

At the airport clinic in Uyo, most of the patients Nsisong encounters are inbound and outbound travellers. She focuses on preventive health measures as well as advising airport authorities on ‘fitness to travel’ assessments and Yellow Fever vaccination regulations. In an effort to provide the best possible service to her travellers and colleagues, Nsisong began looking to expand her knowledge of travel-related health risks, which led her to apply to an IAMAT scholarship.

In the last decade, Nigeria has experienced a significant spike in tourism to and from the country. Nsisong has experienced this growth first-hand and believes that there is a need for more trained travel medicine practitioners: “As more international travel occurs and more travellers visit and leave for new places, the need can only keep increasing,” says Nsisong.

Travel medicine is an emerging and fast-growing field in Nigeria. In 2019, a team of Nigerian practitioners established the Nigerian Society of Travel Medicine. Despite this growing interest, there are limited opportunities for practitioners from countries like Nigeria to practice in travel medicine since programs can be prohibitively expensive or non-existent.

Nsisong sees travel medicine as a challenging field with opportunities to expand and improve. She was first made aware of the growing need for travel medicine when an outbreak of Ebola first occurred in Nigeria in 2014. Trained as a field epidemiologist, Nsisong saw how travel played a major role in the spread of the disease in the region as well as the massive response that was needed. She became interested in how travel medicine can help prevent outbreaks and keep travellers and local populations healthy.

Nsisong notes that one of the biggest issues facing travel medicine today is that there is not always accurate data available on travel-related incidents – most available figures, in her experience, are estimations. More accurate and complete data on the health of travellers, she says, would be useful to better understand and prepare travellers for the risks at their destination.

Applying her new skills back home

In London, Nsisong studied with travel medicine and infectious disease experts at the top of their field. Since returning to Nigeria, she has begun to put her new expertise into practice. Nsisong says that through her training, she was able to learn about proper tools and guides to use when making decisions with her patients.

“Previously, I might have relied on estimates but now, I have the right, globally recognised and utilized resources, and I am making informed, evidence-based decisions,” says Nsisong.

Nsisong has had the opportunity to learn, observe, and hone her skills as a travel medicine physician, and she is excited to continue applying this new knowledge to her practice and share her experience with her colleagues in Nigeria.

She says: “With the newly established Nigerian Society of Travel Medicine, the growing number of trained travel medicine professionals and the increased interest in the field, it can only get bigger and better. This year, I will be introducing some doctors to travel medicine a part of their public health training.”

Supporting future IAMAT Scholars

IAMAT Travel Medicine Scholarships make training accessible to doctors and nurses in countries where travel medicine is an emerging practice. It’s the only program of its kind that offers scholarships to support health practitioners to train in travel medicine.

Our Scholars show leadership in their field and have the capacity and passion to spread travel medicine in their clinic, community, and in their country. Scholars like Nsisong improve local health systems by implementing and sharing the travel medicine best practices they learn during their scholarship training and observations.

To learn more about our scholarships and how you can support the next IAMAT Scholar, check out: IAMAT Scholarships.

Photo by Nsisong Asanga

Article by Jacqueline Tucci