Trinity Students Partner with World Pediatric Project Surgical Mission

Dr. Jeff Lukish talking to medical school students during Laparoscopic clinic

Earlier this month, the World Pediatric Project (WPP) held its first mission for 2019 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  Its focus was on general pediatric surgery with Dr. Jeffrey Lukish, pediatric surgeon from Children’s National Hospital in Washington DC as team leader.

For the unaware, the WPP offers surgical and diagnostic care to children in the Eastern Caribbean and has been actively working in St. Vincent and the Grenadines since 2002. Trinity School of Medicine students are frequently in the mix with them in a volunteer/learning capacity. This mission was no different, with Trinity students taking part, re-dedicating the school to clinical education and community service.  The busy visit was a productive one. On consultation day alone, forty-one local children, and an additional fifteen from neighboring islands, were seen by Trinity students and the visiting team of surgeons.

Trinity School of Medicine and the World Pediatric Project have enjoyed an excellent partnership over the years, affording Trinity students the unique opportunity to work alongside renowned specialists in a variety of medical fields.  This general surgery mission was attended by a team of future physicians from Trinity whose participation was not relegated only to consultation day but included experience in observing surgeries and asking and answering questions as procedures progressed.

Second term student Matthew Barvo spoke on his experience, “There’s quite a lot of resources to watch procedures ahead of time so I did, just in case there were going to be questioned.  I was prepared and very excited to work with the WPP!”  He observed three procedures in the operation theater on three, seven, and twelve-year-old patients.  “It was incredible. They were extremely advanced colorectal procedures and Dr. Lukish explained that some of them were the very first ever performed in the region.”

Barvo added that when he joined Trinity he was well aware of the partnership that existed between the school and the World Pediatric Project and it had become a goal of his to get involved with the program.  His advice? It’s okay to be eager in Trinity’s supportive environment. “When the surgeons come here, there’s a whole team.  You could stay on the sidelines or you could get in the mix and work maybe with the anesthesiologist, assist the surgeon, or get hands-on as much as you could. They’re very open to it.”

Matthew viewed the experience as extremely beneficial to his future career.  He was grateful to see the children receive interventional care and also to observe the way the visiting team of surgeons worked together. It eventually turned out to be a deciding factor for him.  He explained, “As far as thinking ahead in applying for residency, it definitely narrowed down my interests.  Also, when we get to Baltimore and start rotating with surgeons and anesthesiologists, the questions they were asking were like a preview for that.”

Third-term student Heather Dill was ecstatic to be included in the Trinity student team.  “I did realize that there was a lot of interaction between WPP and Trinity and I was happy to be given the option so soon. It was still so much more than I expected. The doctors and members of the team made a really great impression on me.  They were willing and eager to sit and teach us during the consultations.”

Heather was heavily involved in the triage process on consultation day.  It allowed for her familiarization with the patients, learning of their needs, going through the recommended procedure, then ranking them according to severity.   “I got to review x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs.  Dr. Lukish was really good about pulling up labs, and talking about procedure and diagnostics, what will work with what patient and how it won’t for another.”

Knowing the next day would be complex, Heather did her homework for the surgical day. “I did a lot of research on Hirschsprung disease before we went in that day. I was able to ask questions that were more appropriate as a result.  I’ve been a paramedic in the United States, so I performed an intubation on a patient, which was great.  We got to observe from specific positions to make sure we got a good view.”

Ms. Dill continued, “These experiences are very beneficial to medical students.  We are learning in the classroom now and working with that knowledge now.  Pathologies I learned about last term were in front of me as real cases was very beneficial to me because I took what I had learned and was able to apply that knowledge.”

With the World Pediatric Project committed to reaching every child who needing its help, a total of fifteen teams visit St Vincent with different sub-specialties each year.  The WPP is extremely proud of the fact that, according to CEO Susan Rickman, “St. Vincent and the Grenadines should be so proud that they are ground zero for pediatric care in the Caribbean.”

The next World Pediatric Project mission will focus on craniofacial plastic surgery and will be led by Dr. Jennifer Rhodes from Virginia Commonwealth University.  Another team of future physicians from Trinity School of Medicine will work along with the mission.

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