On a mission to improve patient care: a course of infection prevention and control

Photo of Miguela Caniza, MD, MPH,

Miguela Caniza, MD, MPH, helps clinicians and hospitals establish robust infection control and prevention programs as part of the St. Jude Global program.

After reading Dr. Shaloo Puri’s inspiring reflections on her journey to St. Jude, I thought about my work at the hospital.

I was waiting in the international airport in Mexico City for a flight back home. It had been a busy week.

I taught 25 doctors, nurses and allied health care professionals from 13 Latin American countries (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile and Argentina) how to improve care and prevent infections at their hospitals.

The training is part of the St. Jude Infection Prevention and Control course, which is part of the St. Jude Global program.

Together with Instituto Nacional de Pediatria and Hospital Infantil de Mexico, the largest and best pediatric hospitals in Mexico City, we taught clinicians how to: record infections, identify when infection numbers increase and what to do, diagnose infections, implement basic infection control policies and practices and audit clinician adherence to these policies.

After five days of intense training, the attendees expressed their commitment to infection prevention and care, not only in their pediatric oncology wards, but throughout their hospitals.

Some of the clinicians we taught will be the first ones to build an infection prevention and control program at their facilities and apply what they have learned.

These practices have been routine in U.S. hospitals since the mid-1970s.

Children with cancer in low- and middle-income countries die 10 times more than children in wealthier countries. Half of the deaths are due to infections. Because many of these infections are preventable, I have focused on promoting better care and prevention of infections at those sites with fewer resources since arriving at St. Jude 18 years ago.

I travel throughout the world, visiting hospitals to speak with colleagues caring for children and teaching them how to improve patient care. Through courses managed by our team at St. Jude, we’re showing clinicians throughout the world how to prevent, identify and treat infections. My St. Jude Infection Prevention and Control course has graduated over 300 participants throughout Latin America since 2005.

It has been an immense privilege to follow my passion for medicine. As a teenager, when I was volunteering in a local clinic to help a nurse in Caaguazú, my hometown in Paraguay, I couldn’t imagine doing the work that I do now.

Looking back at the path that brought me to St. Jude, I am grateful to my colleagues and resources available at St. Jude for providing me with fertile ground to pursue innovative ideas and effective interventions to solve such a big problem around the world.

About the author

Miguela Caniza, MD, MPH, is a faculty member in the Infectious Diseases Department at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. She also serves as the director of the Infectious Diseases Program for St. Jude Global. View full bio.

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