Published: January 19, 2024

AAO-HNSF Humanitarian Travel Grant Report: Bugando Medical Centre in Mwanza, Tanzania

A first mission trip to Bugando Medical Centre in Mwanza, Tanzania.

Debbie Pan, MD, Duke University School of Medicine

Pan 3With the support of the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) and FACE TO FACE (F2F) humanitarian program of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Foundation (AAFPRS), an inaugural facial plastics mission trip to Bugando Medical Centre (BMC) in Mwanza, Tanzania, took place with a team assembled through the nonprofit organization Healing the Children Northeast (HTCNE).

Pan 2Our team was led by Academy members Manoj T. Abraham, MD, Dane M. Barrett, MD, and William M. Dougherty, MD, and included 21 volunteers, based mainly out of New York and North Carolina. The volunteers included physicians, such as surgeons, anesthesiologists, and hospitalists, as well as speech language pathologists, nurses, scrub techs, and team administrators. HTCNE has a longstanding history of partnering with more than 30 host countries to assist with medical and surgical needs in low-resource settings. This trip was the first mission trip to Tanzania, which was considered as a destination site due to BMC’s collaborative history with the Duke Global Health Institute and with the hopes of establishing an ongoing partnership.

BMC is a tertiary referral hospital in Mwanza. It serves a catchment area of 18 million people, approximately one-third of Tanzania’s total population. We worked alongside BMC personnel from the facial plastic and otolaryngology subspecialities, including faculty, trainees, and ancillary staff to provide care to patients from all over the country.

Pan 1There is only one plastic surgery residency-trained surgeon operating in Tanzania, Francis Tegete, MD, and we had the pleasure of partnering with him to augment the training and interest in expanding the BMC program. Over 55 procedures were performed in four full surgical days, including primary and revision cases of cleft lip repair and palatoplasty, placement of tissue expanders, complex scar revisions, congenital mass debulking and excisions, and repairs of facial defects with various graft and flap techniques. We also designed a bidirectional education curriculum of daily grand rounds didactics from both teams as well as an advanced suture and local flap reconstruction lab session for trainees. The enthusiasm of the local team was unparalleled, and the ease with which we collaborated was quickly built upon mutual admiration.

I feel extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to volunteer with this amazing team and work with such welcoming and knowledgeable local Tanzanian staff. This experience was made possible by the generous support of AAO-HNSF and AAFPRS funding and is certainly a defining moment of residency for me. I look forward to continuing to support and participate in collaborative humanitarian efforts throughout my career.