My Adventure with PNSO in Waterloo, Sierra Leone

There we were, two men in their mid-twenties, staring at each other with thumbs up and foolish grins ear to ear. Me a first year medical student volunteering on a medical mission trip with Pacific Northwest Surgical Outreach, and him, one of our patients from a small town in Sierra Leone who had just gotten out of surgery that morning. Our lives and backgrounds were worlds apart, but there is that intangible aspect of humanity that allowed us to connect and bond with one another despite those differences. It is that connection that made me reflexively mirror his smile and gesture after asking the patient how he was feeling. We had just repaired an inguinal hernia that he had been living with for several years, and while we weren’t saving his life, we were drastically changing it. That smile, and those expressions of appreciation, I saw on the faces of all 38 patients that we operated on in the 4 days we were in Sierra Leone. I take little to no credit for the amazing work that we did, as it is the doctors and nurses who led the trip who deserve the recognition for the impact we had on those 38 lives. But I can take away the experience and hands on learning – an opportunity that few first year medical students get – from a team with years of experience working in surgery and global health, and the inspiration that they have instilled in me to continue pursuing a path dedicated to helping those in need around the world. In just one week, PNSO showed me the huge impact a small team of dedicated professionals working together can make, and I hope to continue supporting and learning from that team as they continue to help people in need around the world.