The World Pediatric Project conducted another visit to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and as is usually the case, Trinity School of Medicine’s 5th-term students were by their side. This latest trip was an orthopedic mission led by Dr. Eric Gordon, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon from St. Louis Children’s Hospital and St. Louis Shriner’s Hospital. Joining him on his visit were pediatric orthopedic fellow Dr. Justin Roth, pediatric anesthesiologist Dr. Robert Moore, recovery nurse Kim Cordia, OR nurse Patricia Long, physical therapist Tracy Przybylski, and WPP team leader Megan Donnelley. This is actually the second orthopedic visit to the island this year. Typically on St. Vincent, WPP missions are one major specialty, once a year. Surgical orthopedics, however, traditionally has two major visits, one before summer, and one right after.
The trips are divided into two parts, clinic day, and then the procedures themselves. On clinic day, the students worked with Dr. Gordon, examining (and, in some cases, following up with) thirty children with a variety of orthopedic issues. After close evaluation, twenty were deemed surgical cases to be addressed during the mission. Throughout the consultations, students assisted as scribes, but also asked questions, were prompted to offer input, and assisted in physical examinations.
Video: Dr. Gordon talks about the project from Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in St. Vincent. Source: WPP Caribbean.
When asked about the experience, Trinity fifth-term student Caleb Ackman said, “I was happy to observe and learn from Dr. Gordon’s skill in examining the kids and getting them to cooperate with him as he manipulated their arms and legs.” He continued, “That was something that I’ve definitely had trouble with. Now, having watched his methods, when I go on clinical rotations, I’ll be adopting some of his techniques.”
One of the major benefits of the World Pediatric Project mission is how it focuses Trinity’s clinical approach to education with its visiting experts, offering a fresh, seasoned perspective in a given specialty. Trinity student Utsa Thapa was quick to note, “In class, it’s the concepts, but here we’re getting the practice in action from a seasoned professional focused on patient care and open to teaching, rather than a teacher. It changes their behavior in a very useful way.” Utsa continued, “The process helps you to get further advanced in your studies because this is the real world of medicine in action. I’d definitely recommend this program to future students. It’s so rewarding!”
Offering another perspective on the trip was a 2016 Trinity graduate and native Vincentian, Dr. Gamal Fitzpatrick. Now on the “other side” of the line and working as a physician during a WPP visit, Dr. Fitzpatrick noted, “There is always an opportunity to learn, especially when working with specialists: the way they think, the way they go through their differential diagnosis, the way they evaluate patients. It’s a great experience for medical students. You get to ask questions, to be a part of the team, understand the different diagnoses, and you’re there with the actual patient. It’s not the textbook, or a simulator, or a ‘standardized patient.’ It’s the real thing, they have a name and a face and they’re there needing help.”
5th term student Utsa Thapa agreed, adding, “It’s different when you’re learning about bones and muscles in the classroom. Everything is just there in your head and you’re imagining the theory but when you watch someone actually work with the patient, and then observe as they perform surgery on that same patient, you’re learning so much more. It solidifies what you already know about the concepts and anatomy.”
Above: Doctors at play. Doctor Gordon (left), the towering Dr. Roth (center), and Milton Cato Memorial Hospital’s own diminutive Dr. Data (right).
Later this month, the World Pediatric Project will be back for its annual urology mission. The upcoming trip is always particularly compelling for Trinity students. The pathology and case mix in more remote areas of the Caribbean makes the care provided both necessary and unique, compared to anything typically seen on the mainland in North America.
As always, Trinity students will be there with the visiting team to offer assistance and learn.