Featured Faculty: Svenja Albrecht, MD

Dr. Albrecht is originally from Germany and obtained her undergraduate and medical degrees from Rutgers University. She completed her residency in internal medicine and fellowship in Infectious Diseases at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Albrecht also has obtained a Masters of Public Health (MPH) from Johns Hopkins University and the Certificate in Tropical Medicine from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.  She has been on faculty at UMMC since 2007 in the Division of Infectious Diseases, where she currently serves as an Associate Professor and course director for a Trainee Tropical Medicine Course in Peru. In addition to seeing patients in clinic and on the consult service, Dr. Albrecht is also on a mission to provide Hepatitis C treatment to those across rural Mississippi. Here, she sits down with us for a brief look into what she’s been up to.

Tell us about Project ECHO.

Curing Hepatitis C (HCV) with antivirals has become medically very easy.  In a state like MS, however, screening, linkage to care, and access have been major challenges, especially for providers in rural areas and for the most disadvantaged populations.  I am excited about our plans to bring a Project ECHO (Extension for Community Health Outcomes) to UMMC to provide better access to HCV care for the rest of MS.  Different from traditional Telemedicine, this model utilizes teleconferencing to train and enable primary care providers to treat HCV.  This practice-guided model can exponentially increase provider capacity to provide best practice specialty care for viral hepatitis and reduce health disparities though its hub-and-spoke knowledge sharing networks.  Originally developed for HCV treatment in rural New Mexico, so far over 6000 patients have been treated for HCV through this model.  For many HCV infected Mississippians in rural areas, this will open access that currently does not exist.

When will Project ECHO begin?

We expect to have our platform up and running by the beginning of 2019, when we will start with a few pilot FQHCs (Federally Qualified Health Centers).

You also serve as the Course Director for a rotation in Peru. Tell us more about that. 

Svenja Peru
Dr. Albrecht with a patient in a Peruvian clinic

This is a one month rotation offered predominantly to UMMC fourth year medical students, residents (usually IM, Med-Peds, or ER), ID fellows, and ID pharmacists.  However, we have had RNs, PAs, and outside primary care attendings and even a UMMC pediatric GI attending and a CT surgery attending join us in past years and space permitting, this is open to anyone interested.  We spend the first two weeks at UMMC doing a didactics; this is a tropical medicine curriculum focused on preparation for the practical portion of the

Svenja Peru group
Dr. Albrecht and the 2015 Peru rotation group 

rotation.  We then spend the second half of the month in the Amazon basin of Peru, working with a non-profit called Project Amazonas to travel by boat from community to community with our supplies to set up half-day clinics in each location.  We provide medical care to approximately 1200 patients in those communities. The team composition varies every year; for 2019 we will have 3 internal medicine residents, 9 M4s from UMMC, and four senior medical students from the UK, a Peruvian MD, a Peruvian dentist, and myself.

Wow, it seems like you have been very busy. What do you like to do in your spare time, assuming you have any?

Travel and exploring new geographical areas, cultures, and foods is one of my great passions; it is how I got to the US at age 18 for a “one year au-pair” originally.  Time prohibits most of that, so it is mostly spending time outdoors, especially swimming, kayaking, and hiking.  If only MS were not so flat.

What do you like most about working at UMMC?

First and foremost, the people!  We have great faculty and a family-like culture that I really appreciate, but above and beyond it is our trainees.  I loved previously directing our fellowship program as I do now direct our M3 and M4 ID courses, and the outstanding quality of our residents is my favorite aspect of consult months.  The education and teaching opportunities for faculty are fantastic at UMMC.  I also appreciate our patient population and the diversity of pathology and challenges that keep me on my toes.

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