Nuzvid, India, February 2005
Gifford Memorial Hospital
Jaimie Shores, MD
3rd Year Plastic Surgery Resident
Loma Linda University Medical Center
We strive to help educate the local health-care providers in whatever areas they have a need. This takes the form of educating local physicians on rounds, in the clinic, and in the operating room. It also includes training nurses, nursing students, and other health-care providers in a variety of ways. Besides teaching during actual patient encounters, we taught classes on subjects that presented a large need in the specific population and that would provide useful skills to participants. During this visit, we taught three courses in basic life saving and cardiopulmonary resuscitation to all hospital staff. We also taught classes regarding cervical cancer, a top killer in Indian women, as well as wound care and wound healing.
I have never before seen so much good done with so little. The staff of GMH are truly an inspiration as they do not do their jobs for the small amount of compensation they are provided, but because they are committed to caring for people. Their dedication to the Seventh-day Adventist principles of "whole-person care" are evident. Every scrap is saved; everything disposable is evaluated for further usefulness in a medically acceptable manner. Every talent or skill is identified and used in every person. Nothing goes to waste.
There is no such thing as a "run-of-the-mill" surgical procedure when performed in an environment without access to predictable electricity, access to standard instruments and surgical supplies, access to standard antibiotics, and access to standard anesthesia. However, we have learned that it is possible to provide surgical care for patients in this environment when dedicated people provide quality patient care in creative and resourceful ways. Missionary hospitals still perform vital and life-saving services to many people who would otherwise have no option for health care due to either lack of funding or physical proximity to other qualified resources. Medical missionaries are not enough to help these patients. They also need medications, supplies, support staff, and access to the point of care. These can only be provided through charitable donations from individuals and organizations. Even in areas with available physicians, nurses, support staff, and facilities, India's top medical necessity remains a matter of public health. Basic sanitation, pollution, poverty, and education are top needs that must be met on a national level for India to improve its current health-care status. Until then, and even there-after, mission hospitals such as GMH will continue to fill a vital need as long as medical missionaries are willing to care for their patients, and as long caring people are willing to donate to this cause.
Assessment of Need
GMH provides high quality care to the best of its ability through the dedication and compassion of the staff. They provide this care to whomever with whatever they have. However, the surgical needs of the patients at GMH will never be completely met until a full-time anesthesiologist with adequate training, experience, and confidence is available so that surgeons may perform the operations the patients need. Their operating facilities need, at the very least, better surgical lighting for improved surgical field visualization. Improved electrocautery and more surgical supplies including dressings and re-usable surgical instruments are needed.
During this experience I was constantly reminded of why I chose medicine as my career. I suddenly remembered this the moment I stepped off the airplane, the moment I set foot into GMH, and the moment our first patient realized we would indeed be able to help. Many times in the busy medico legal environment of the American health industry, it is easy to forget why I am filling out stack after stack of paper work. Then I think back to this single experience, and I suddenly remember. I hope to return to Nuzvid to provide more services for its citizens. I will carry the inspiration and hope of the people I met in India with me as I continue to practice here in the US. I also hope to make many more medical missionary trips to underserved areas to continue the healing ministry of Loma Linda University.
This outreach program was supported in part by a generous contribution from Robert Hardesty, MD.