African adventurers include FirstHealth Travel Medicine Clinic on trip itinerary
PINEHURST — Pinehurst residents Joyce Reehling and Charlene Kinelski, who share the same birthday, have a slew of tasks to check off as they prepare for their 75th birthday bash […]
PINEHURST — Pinehurst residents Joyce Reehling and Charlene Kinelski, who share the same birthday, have a slew of tasks to check off as they prepare for their 75th birthday bash — an epic trip to Africa. Passport? Check. Comfortable clothes? Check. Vaccinations and up-to-date information to keep them healthy while traveling? Check and check, thanks to the FirstHealth Travel Medicine Clinic, a service of FirstHealth of the Carolinas’ infectious diseases department.
Travel medicine is a medical specialty that focuses on preventing, detecting and treating health-related problems associated with travel. Travelers living in the Sandhills previously had to drive to the Raleigh area to receive travel medicine services, but FirstHealth of the Carolinas now offers a full-service clinic on the FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital campus in Pinehurst.
A trip of a lifetime
Joyce and Charlene are among a group of eight ladies leaving in mid-February for a two-week African adventure. They start in Nairobi and proceed to several national parks and reserves in Kenya.
Joyce is excited about visiting an elephant orphanage in Nairobi, where she hopes to meet her “adopted elephant.” The trip coordinator, a mutual friend of Joyce and Charlene, sponsored an elephant for each of the eight ladies. Joyce’s elephant is named Nyambeni. Charlene’s is Mzinga.
Charlene looks forward to returning to a girls’ school in one of Nairobi’s impoverished areas. On a trip to Nairobi in early 2020, Charlene met feisty second-grader Sharleen. Charlene was smitten and has sponsored and corresponded with Sharleen ever since. On this trip, the namesakes will visit in person.
But first, a trip to the travel clinic
For her 2020 trip to Africa, Charlene had to drive to Cary to receive travel medicine services. When she told her primary care physician about her 2024 trip, she was relieved to learn about FirstHealth Travel Medicine in Pinehurst. She and Joyce booked appointments right away.
Before their travel medicine consultations, both ladies completed a questionnaire about their health history, prior vaccinations and trip itinerary. Charlene met with board certified, fellowship-trained infectious diseases specialist Paul Jawanda, M.D. Joyce met with Gretchen Arnoczy, M.D., who is also board certified and fellowship-trained in infectious diseases.
Charlene and Joyce received travel medicine services customized to their trip itinerary and personal situations. Since Charlene had been vaccinated for an African trip in recent years, she didn’t need many vaccinations. Joyce, who has asthma, needed the full complement of vaccinations and specialized information related to her condition. Both received guidance and resources for staying healthy during their trip, including preventive medications.
“He had done his homework,” Charlene said of Dr. Jawanda’s guidance. “He knew exactly what I needed, and I never felt rushed when asking questions. Dr. Jawanda was extremely helpful.”
“We stay current on guidelines and health issues around the globe with information from the Centers for Disease Control, the State Department and Shoreland Travax, the most extensive travel health and safety information source,” said Dr. Jawanda. “We counsel travelers about reducing exposure to health risks while traveling. We discuss immunizations, medications for preventing illness and prescriptions for self-treatment of illness, if necessary. Also, we are a resource for travelers if they become unwell with a suspected travel-associated illness after returning home.”
Joyce had equal appreciation for Dr. Arnoczy. “Oh, she was divine!” Joyce exclaimed. “We went through my itinerary and discussed each possible inoculation.” Joyce also praised the nurses and support staff, saying, “A more pleasant staff you couldn’t ask for. Absolutely. Start to finish.”
Travel medicine services close to home
Dr. Jawanda said a void in travel medicine services in the Sandhills drove the clinic’s creation. “In the past, people in our community had to travel to the Triangle for travel clinic services,” he said. “Or they had to rely on a patchwork of advice from their primary care physicians, who may not have had the relevant experience, knowledge or certain vaccines that travelers require.”
Services offered by travel clinics are not covered by insurance. However, Dr. Jawanda maintains his staff is cost-conscious and helps travelers find the most economical, effective solutions.
“For the knowledge and care that our patients get, we feel it is a wonderful bargain to come see us,” Dr. Jawanda said.
FirstHealth’s Travel Medicine Clinic is at 35 Memorial Drive in Pinehurst, NC. To make an appointment, call 910-715-7883.