A contribution from Dr. Rajdev (general surgery resident) and Dr. Srinivasan (general surgeon):
Day 14 of the 2018 Haiti Trip—Week Two is just about halfway over, and the M4 trip leaders are also halfway done with their month-long undertaking. A few of the med students made this realization as they calmly spiked their morning coffee with a) more coffee, b) Miralax, and c) enough sugar to make any endocrinologist squirm. The day that followed was, as one of our trip leaders put it, “like plowing through a concrete wall”—we made progress, but it was S L O W. After several stops and starts in the morning, we got into a good groove with three (!) prostatectomies, a circumcision, and a hydrocele. Long day, you say? Well, Dear Reader, we still managed to finish up by 5PM! Lots of props and kudos to our Scrub RNs, PACU RNs, Anesthetists, and student runners who made it all happen.
Plowing through a concrete wall is an apt, if not distressing analogy for global work. Many questions arise: why is this concrete wall so thick? Should we be plowing through this concrete wall? Why was this concrete wall built in the first place? Is this a lode-bearing concrete wall? Bureaucracy is a difficult obstacle anywhere in the world, but perhaps most difficult in another country where we are merely guests.
One of the best people to speak to this challenge is Dr. Srinivasan. She works tirelessly to help iron out the small hiccups, to placate the right people, to make sure our trip is here to help, not disrupt. As students and residents, we are like thirsty kids drinking from a fire hydrant—our teachers are everyone, our lessons are everywhere. And certainly all the veterans of this trip—Greg, Mannie, Toni, Bernard, Venecia, Dr. Sullivan, Dr. Carney, and Dr. Srinivasan—are mentors to all of us. We’ll round out tonight’s post with a few words from Dr. Srinivasan:
The quiet details of this trip are always the challenge. There is nothing that is actually effortless, although I suppose we strive to make it seem that way. I vow every year that I do this that perhaps I can find a way to just be the ‘laid back’ week of the trip. For some reason that seems to never be the case. The truth is, it takes a lot of work to make this trip run. We spend the better part of a year working day in and out with the best medical students Emory has to offer trying to make things run without a hitch. One tends to take it a bit personally when the hiccups that naturally occur with the day-in and out occur.
Today was rough. I had to balance our group’s natural inclination to do everything possible to heroically intervene in cases that won’t otherwise be able to be addressed with the reality that if we do not respect the process of the hospital in which we work as guests, we will never be able to truly build lasting relationships that create long term change over short term wins. Over the years though, I’ve definitely learned a lot about my own deficiencies in this process. I’m not always the most patient person, nor am I always the most tolerant. I can get exasperated with the fact that everyone wants a piece of me to fix the problems that occur, but then simultaneously annoyed when someone breaks off independently to ‘create a problem I have to fix’. When we gather together at the end of the day, however, every night I am happily reminded when I look around the room that every single person on the trip is doing their utmost to do the most they can for every patient. That’s not a bad way to spend your day.