Next mission: the return to Trujillo
April 17, 2017
BENEFITING: INTERNATIONAL SURGICAL HEALTH INITIATIVES INC
When the power went out for the third time that day, we escaped the operating room to gather around the fans. Operating without air conditioning would carry an unacceptable risk of heat exhaustion for both the surgical staff and the patients. The Haitian sun is merciless. So we waited; eventually power was restored and we finished the last few cases. Participating in a week-long surgical mission to Cap Haitien, Haiti with the International Surgical Health Initiative (ISHI) was my first chance see the challenges facing surgeons in low- and middle-income countries. From the minute we arrived at the airport, roadblocks abounded: unanticipated “fees” to import our medical equipment, multiple flat tires during transport, scrambling to find a new hotel when our planned lodging was discovered to be a large and structurally incomplete house that lacked power or running water. We met these challenges before we had even arrived at the hospital and would face even more regarding patient triage, dysfunctional anesthesia machines, and the environment itself. However, we persevered, engineered, and finished the week with successful completion of roughly fifty cases. The type of obstacles encountered may deter some, but solving these intricate puzzles is a large part of what attracts me to global surgery. My name is Peter Johnston. I am a PGY3 resident in general surgery at the Rutgers-NJMS program in Newark, NJ. I am the Benjamin Rush Rutgers Global Surgery Research Fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year. My interest in global surgery began with a curiosity about the planet and humanity. Fortunately, I have been afforded opportunities to learn about both through my various experiences abroad. I started backpacking internationally prior to medical school, and have seized every opportunity since then to go overseas. In addition to the challenges of surgical missions, lessons learned when navigating the chicken buses of Central America or getting lost in the middle of Shanghai have been invaluable. Additionally, I assisted in setting up a clinic for patients with AIDS in Costa Rica, who were unable to obtain medical care elsewhere because they were shunned by society. My ultimate goal is to marry my career in surgery with my passion for the globe, and I will take a big step in that process during fellowship this year. During that time, my aims are to learn the necessary skills to organize, lead, and operate short term surgical missions. Additionally, the research component of the fellowship will focus on practice patterns, with the ultimate goal of capacity building at the local level. I will be expanding my knowledge by participating in a certificate program through the Rutgers School of Public Health, with a focus on Global Surgery, as well as mentoring the ISHI medical student club to help inspire the next wave of global surgeons. I need help to fund my travel and expenses while we tackle hopefully 4-5 surgical missions during the academic year. We have several missions in the works for the Fall and I look forward to getting started. Thank you all for your support!