Written by Ijeoma Okwandu, MD, PGY-3 at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Ob/Gyn Residency Program while on Global…
In January 2012, I was fortunate to participate in the Bay Area Surgical Mission(BASM) trip to the Philippines. I traveled with a 19 person team comprised of physicians, nurses, and technicians from Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland and Santa Clara, California. The mission was lead by Joshua A. Gottschall, MD, a former Pediatric Otolaryngologist with The Permanente Medical Group who is now based in Orlando, Florida with the Children’s Ear Nose and Throat Associates. Members of the Kaiser Oakland Head and Neck Surgery Department included Barry M. Rasgon, MD, Stephen V. Tornabene, MD, and me. Luke J. Schloegel MD, a former resident of the program and soon to be faculty member, also participated. There were two general surgeons in our group. We also joined forces with a team of Ophthalmologists from the capital city of Manila as well as volunteer nurses and interpreters from the area.
The mission drew individuals from a wide geographic area, with many traveling great distances through treacherous country roads and often stormy weather to be evaluated for the first time. We operated in two small community hospitals in the neighboring rural communities of Tigaon and Sagnay of the Camarines Sur province of the Philippines. Despite the challenges of limited resources and time, I learned that we could still deliver quality care. Flexibility, dedication, and teamwork proved more essential than the “modern” conveniences of adjustable operating tables and high-powered lighting. Over the course 6 days, were saw many patients. Of these, 40 received major operations and 97 minor operations. Otolaryngologic cases included thyroid lobectomy and primary cleft lip and palate repair. The ophthalmology group performed 146 cases of cataract and pterygium surgery.
Our mission trip accomplished the goal of treating an underserved population with otherwise limited access to medical care. Both personally and professionally, this was a kind of priceless experience that will enrich the practice of any physician. I would like to thank the Kaiser Permanente Global Health Program for their generous support of this truly inspirational trip.