Logo for University of Iowa Health Care This logo represents the University of Iowa Health Care

Department members take part in medical missions

Every year, the Department of Anesthesia supports four medical mission trips to provide anesthesia services to underserved populations in Central and South America. Unfortunately, geopolitical issues and the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of our planned trips to Ecuador and Honduras in 2019-2020. However, we were able to send residents and faculty on medical mission trips to Colombia and Guatemala, and one of our fellows filled in on short notice for another provider who was unable to make the Guatemala trip at the last minute. We are grateful for the opportunity to provide life-changing care to these patients, and we are profoundly appreciative of Dr. Pierce and Wilene Cornelius, whose generosity allows us to provide our trainees with these unique opportunities.

Bucaramanga, Colombia

Paige Keasler, DO, PGY4 (graduated June 2020)
Justin Norvell, MD, PGY4 (graduated June 2020)
Lovkesh Arora, MBBS, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Anesthesia
Ajay Patel, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Anesthesia
Sarah Titler, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Anesthesia

Bucaramanga Colombia   Clinic day, Bucaramanga    Surgical team, Colombia  Dr. Titler with patient in Colombia

The two-week Colombia mission trip was hosted at the Hospital Universitario de Santander in Bucaramanga, in north central Colombia. On clinic day, lines snaked around the hospital grounds; many of the families had traveled for hours, even days, for the opportunity to have their child assessed for life-changing surgery.

The Department’s residents and faculty provided anesthesia services for 72 surgical procedures and 94 non-surgical procedures (such as post-operative care, suture removal, and wound care). They assisted at:
• 31 craniofacial surgeries
• 18 hand surgeries
• 12 ear surgeries
• 4 nasal surgeries
• 3 face surgeries
• 3 burn surgeries
• 1 eye surgery

Huehuetenango, Guatemala

Chad Vassar, DO, PGY5, Pediatric Anesthesia Fellow (graduated June 2020)
Martin Mueller, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Anesthesia

Huehuetenango, Guatemala  Dr. Mueller with patient  Consulting with patients  Guatemala provider team

Letter from Chad Vassar, DO, regarding his mission trip:

I am glad I had the opportunity to join the Iowa MOST Miles of Smiles Team in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, during their 2020 mission. This opportunity came to me very last minute after a member of the anesthesia team had to withdraw abruptly. I, and the IowaMost team, are fortunate that the University of Iowa Committee on Missions was able to work quickly and grant me approval to provide anesthesia services during this week-long trip. Had the vacated anesthesia role not been filled, the Miles of Smiles Team may have had to close one of the operating theatres, which naturally would have drastically reduced the number of patients served.

On this trip, we were able to provide approximately 30 patients with surgical services ranging from myringotomy tubes to cleft palate repairs. Families often travel considerable distances to come for surgery. During the perioperative period admission period, the patients’ families also receive supportive care, including meals and minor medical services. Outside of surgical services, the Miles of Smiles Team also provides community outreach. Many Guatemalan children have dentition that is in decay. The dental team goes out to rural schools to provide dental education and fluoride treatments. Additionally, as part of this community effort, the team also provides school supplies as well as other financial support to various schools.

I certainly gained valuable experience providing anesthesia in a resource-poor environment. I do believe we did some good. This experience was important for me to have as a trainee.

Thanks to all involved for the opportunity.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020