Volunteerism

If you are a woman cardiothoracic surgeon or researcher who has participated in surgical volunteerism and would like to be interviewed for a WTS article, please e-mail wts@wtsnet.org.

WTS would like to highlight the outstanding work of Dr. Kathleen Fenton, one of our active members and a great leader in volunteerism.  Currently residing in Managua, Nicaragua, Dr Fenton has worked full-time with the International Children’s Heart Foundation for six years. For the past year and a half, she has spent approximately half of her time traveling to other countries, including Honduras, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, and Libya, participating with medical teams for two week trips. There are opportunities for both volunteers and students/residents to participate in the ICHF. Expenses are covered for medical volunteers, but students and residents need to cover costs of their own trip. Additionally, Dr. Fenton is active with a separate group in Nicaragua which brings in teams to do adult cardiac surgery.  This group is seeking new volunteers, as well.  Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Fenton at kathleennf@gmail.com with any interest or questions related to her endeavors, and join us in congratulating her on these amazing accomplishments.

Click here to read the Solomon Islands Endoscopy Training Report Part Two. This report outlines Dr. Virginia Litle’s experience with the Solomon Islands Living Memorial Project.

Click here to read about Dr. Kathleen M. Casey’s volunteer experience (Oracle, Summer 2012).

WTS congratulates Dr. Emily Farkas on her remarkable humanitarian work, as outlined in this STS News article, Spring 2010. Dr. Farkas engaged in a recent trip to Haiti as a scout mission to determine if cardiac and congenital surgery might be feasible for an upcoming larger effort, for which she will be honored as the Mission Director for Cardiostart.  Cardiac surgery hasn’t been performed in this region for 7 years, as the understandable focus in the aftermath of the earthquake has been on more fundamental needs. With a currently large backlog of children and young adults with cardiac surgical problems desperately warranting attention, Dr. Farkas is committed to moving this effort forward.  She has taken residents with her in the past, all of whom have described uniformly amazing experience. To quote Dr. Farkas, “I think all of us at some point in training should be exposed to medicine in the third world to put our global healthcare climate and personal clinical acumen into context.”
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WTS Scholarship Recipient Heads to Haiti

HelenMari Merritt, MD, a 2010 WTS scholarship recipient and PGY1 at UT Health, was in Haiti for a week to provide medical care to earthquake victims.

Jimani: Dominican Republic/Haitian Border Refugee Hospital

We arrived to chaos. Operating rooms running day and night, an orphanage converted to triage bay, and patients who were more damaged physically and emotionally than any had expected.

We treated over 4,000 patients over five days, working day and night, sleeping outside following the aftershocks which scared us and our patients, and helping in any way we could, whether it was operating or holding a scared child at night.

While there were no patients who needed CABGs, VATs, or esophagectomies, there were patients who needed thoracic surgeons, and more importantly physicians. There were pneumothoraces that needed decompression (we didn’t have any chest tubes so we decompressed with a red rubber catheter and used water bottle for water-seal), and patients who needed pulmonary toilet after collapsed lungs (we had to be creative, fashioning an incentive spirometer with a 30 cc syringe with a glove tied to the end). There were amputations to be done, and often more of a need for scrub techs, circulators, or transporters than surgeons.

The bottom line is, in Haiti, in times of crisis in general, there is not a great need for specialty surgeons. Where the need lies is in finding versatile, innovative, and compassionate doctors. I can think of no other field where these qualities are so well embodied than our own.
HelenMari Merritt, MD