The weeklong surgical outreach to Iquitos, Peru, was filled with education and adventure. From the very beginning My expectations for the trip were met through the unique hands-on education and tangible aid we provided. We had the opportunity to be a part of the entire patient experience, from initial evaluation, to surgical preparation, assisting during surgery, and recovery and post-op. It was one of my first experiences witnessing the entire process, with nurses, scrub techs, PAs, and medical students playing critical roles while the surgeons performed the ultimate procedures. I enjoyed participating at each level and learning just how complex the entire surgical process is on a macroscopic team approach.
I would be disingenuous if I didn’t acknowledge that the surgical experience itself was the most exciting. I admired the surgeons’ confidence, and ability on the surgical table. I found distinct pleasure in being a part of the surgeries in my own small way. On the last case that I was allowed to scrub in on, I was able to close the external oblique aponeurosis, scarpas fascial layer, and the subdermal layer. Even in one week I noticed an increase in my own confidence, ability, and a decrease in my hands’ unconscious shaking. My interest and enjoyment during the surgical process maintained a consistent high throughout the trip. During my first year of medical school and on this surgical trip as well, I kept thinking I would run into a portion of medical education that was so over my head that I would find it inaccessible and beyond future conceivable ability. On this trip, I was once again struck with the realization that while the surgeons are masters of their craft as well as artists, it is not rocket science but rather a tremendous amount of work to hone ones’ skills. This was encouraging, as I again realized that I too may achieve that level of success and personal fulfillment in the future if I fully put myself into it.
The excitement of surgery was further capped off by witnessing the appreciation of our patients. Whether it was a woozy patient in post-op smiling despite his pain, or a family member asking to take a picture with us, their gratitude reminded us of the real impact we were having. It was a beautiful reminder of why I am going to be a doctor: to create relationships with patients, understand their suffering, and do what I can to help them heal.
Since my first surgical trip with PNSO to Peru in 2015 I have participated in the Uganda trip in 2016 and anticipate going once again in 2017. Now, several months into my third year of medical school on my clinical rotations, I have yet to experience the excitement and fulfillment these abroad trips have provided me. I look forward to carving out a future where international medicine and surgery play a prominent role.