BCM/TCH volunteers provide surgical care in Guatemala

In May, a team of Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital volunteers traveled to Antigua, Guatemala, on a medical mission through the organization Faith in Practice. The team was led by Dr. Nancy Glass, professor of pediatrics – anesthesiology, and included surgeons, physicians, dentists, nurses, a physical therapist, a team administrator and others.

They arrived on May 24, and by the next morning started triaging patients and scheduling surgeries for the coming week. Patients are referred for surgery by medical volunteers working on the ground in villages throughout Guatemala. Many of the patients speak Spanish while others speak one of the 23 Mayan languages of Guatemala.

Dr. Nancy Glass with a young patient in Guatemala

Dr. Nancy Glass with a young patient in Guatemala

Over four operating days, 142 pediatric procedures were performed, including orthopedic surgery, general surgery and operative dentistry.

Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, professor of surgery and of pediatrics at Baylor and co-director of the Texas Children’s Fetal Center, has participated in the program for five years.

“It is indeed a blessing to be part of the Faith in Practice surgical and dental team caring for the needy in Guatemala,” he said. “What a pleasure to help improve access to care and express genuine love and compassion.”

Patients and their families are very grateful for the services provided, noted Susan Fernbach, a registered nurse and assistant professor in the department of molecular and human genetics at Baylor. She recalled that on the day of his daughter’s discharge after surgery, a Guatemalan man spoke at length about the great work done by the entire medical team. But even better was when his young daughter proclaimed that she would like to become a doctor one day and help others.

Surgeries are performed at the Obras Sociales hospital, which also provides long-term care for children and adults with disabilities.

In addition to the surgical care provided by members of the volunteer team, Dr. Daryl Scott, associate professor of molecular and human genetics, and Fernbach, who is also director of genetics outreach, were invited by a geneticist colleague to offer lectures at the University of San Carlos Facultad de Ciencias Medicas in Guatemala City.  After the visit, they learned that two young pediatricians there are submitting applications to Baylor for a genetics fellowship.

“Our connections with our Guatemalan colleagues have been strengthened as have the bonds across disciplines amongst our BCM/TCH team members,” Fernbach said. “This was an intensely rewarding week for all as we provided care for poor children and families who otherwise have no recourse to medical care.”

Glass also noted the impact the mission trip had on those who volunteered. “Once again, we returned refreshed and rejuvenated to our ‘everyday’ lives, grateful to have had the opportunity to serve others, and ever more mindful of the blessings in our own lives,” she said.

Faith In Practice is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the physical, spiritual and economic conditions of the poor in Guatemala through short-term surgical, medical and dental mission trips and health-related educational programs. In 2013, more than 1,100 U.S. medical professionals, along with support personnel, and more than 700 Guatemalan volunteers worked together in medical, surgical, dental, and healthcare teaching teams and treated approximately 25,000 patients.        www.faithinpractice.org.

BCM/TCH mission volunteers

Front row: Dr. Tony Zapata, Rev. Pam Taylor-Glass, Miriam Gibson, Sarah Endique, Julia Bentley, and Susan Fernbach
Back row: Dr. Daryl Scott, Dr. David Mann, Dr. Nancy Glass, Dr. Adam Stone, Melissa Ard, Dr. Olutoyin Olutoye, Karen Bustos, and Dr. Kathryn Putnam

Many of the volunteers have been participating in the medical mission trips for as long as 13 years. BCM/TCH volunteers included Dr. Tony Zapata, a medical resident in anesthesiology; Rev. Pam Taylor-Glass of TCH; Miriam Gibson, a registered nurse at TCH; Sarah Endique, a certified nurse anesthetist and instructor in the department of pediatrics; Julia Bentley, a registered nurse at TCH; Dr. David Mann, assistant professor of pediatrics-anesthesiology; Dr. Nancy Glass; Dr. Daryl Scott; Susan Fernbach; Dr. Adam Stone, assistant professor of pediatrics-anesthesiology; Melissa Ard, a registered nurse at TCH; Dr. Olutoyin Olutoye, assistant professor of anesthesiology; Karen Bustos, a nurse at TCH; Dr. Kathryn Putnam; a medical resident in anesthesiology; Dr. Elsa Echeverri, a pediatric dentist with TCH; and Gloria Gonzalez, a dental assistant with TCH. Others on the team were medical volunteers from Florida, Virginia, California and New York and well as local volunteers from Guatemala.

Photos by Neal Gorman.

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