Spotlight: Humanitarian Efforts
I am a family nurse practitioner working in pediatric otolaryngology at Stanford Children’s Health in Palo Alto, California.
H. Charlie Lin, MSN, APRN, NP-C, CNOR, CNAMB, RNFA, FCN
Nurse Practitioner, Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital / Stanford Children's Health
Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, Master of Science in PA Studies Program, Stanford School of Medicine
Adjunct Faculty, Delaware County Community College - RN First Assistant Program
AHA BLS & ACLS Instructor
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a family nurse practitioner working in pediatric otolaryngology at Stanford Children’s Health in Palo Alto, California. My clinical interests include pediatric airway, microtia reconstruction, as well as chemosensory dysfunction. I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas. Additionally, I completed my RN first assistant certificate at Delaware County Community College in Media, Pennsylvania.
I worked for years as a nurse in emergency departments and operating rooms (ORs) at several facilities in North Dallas, Texas, before completing my nurse practitioner program. It was in the OR that I discovered my passion for otolaryngology under the guidance of Lav A. Kapadia, MD, of Ear, Nose and Throat Associates of Texas. In search of a position within our wonderful specialty, I began my career in ENT after being trained by the excellent ENTs at UConn John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington, Connecticut. For many years now, I have had the privilege to serve as a OR nurse leader with LEAP Global Missions, a nonprofit organization based in Dallas, Texas.
Describe the humanitarian missions you are involved in.
I have been involved in humanitarian missions for 10 years, having gone on more than 25 trips to Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Asia. From craniofacial/plastics, general surgery, and ophthalmology to urology and ENT, I have had the privilege to serve as an OR nurse leader with LEAP Global Missions, a nonprofit organization based in Dallas, Texas, and in the roles of team or mission leader, circulator, surgical assist, and recovery nurse.
Our patients come from orphanages and families with insufficient financial resources or lack local access to operative procedures. Our trips range from four days to two weeks, depending on the country we travel to. We work with local contacts or agencies to spread the word of what services we offer and enjoy seeing the progress of our patients on subsequent trips. Many of our patients go on to tell their stories of how their procedures have impacted their lives and then share their families with us.
A few years ago, I was asked to help develop our newest mission to Zihuantanejo, Mexico, where we perform microtia reconstructions. This mission is especially meaningful as we get to see these patients at each stage of the procedure grow in personality and confidence. After the mission is complete, I stay behind to see these patients in my post-op clinic before returning to the States.
Additionally, I have served with MOVE Missions as an OR circulator and first assist performing total joint arthroplasty in the Dominican Republic. In this organization, we partner with a local church and fund many of the projects of a local school, taking time to engage with the students in learning and sports activities. This experience is not only meaningful because we get to interact with students and watch them grow to become productive members of their communities, but we also get to help our surgical patients move with freedom again.
How can others get involved if they are interested?
First, talk to and engage with others who have participated in humanitarian missions and learn about their passions and experiences. Second, research organizations and determine if you can make the time commitment. If you feel that you are ready to experience a life-changing opportunity, fill out the application. You will never get involved if you don’t fill out an application. Like LEAP Global Missions (https://www.leapmissions.org/), many mission agencies also have local partnership opportunities that may be more feasible for the busy clinician.
Provide some guidance for others interested in what you are doing.
I first got involved with LEAP Global Missions by word of mouth through a friend. After several surgeons and anesthesiologists heard of my mission adventures, they encouraged me to consider joining them on their trips with Faith in Practice and Mercy Ships. This is how I got involved with MOVE Missions. More healthcare personnel have participated in humanitarian surgical missions than we may realize, so be open to the opportunity for great conversations. Interested individuals could also consider joining International Disaster Surgical Relief teams.
How does the work you do impact you and the communities you serve?
Participating in these humanitarian efforts provides me with a different appreciation for the care that I provide to my patients in the United States. Our work abroad allows our patients to become more readily accepted as members of their communities, pursue their aspirations without fear of judgment, and be free of the financial strain associated with operative procedures.
We have the opportunity to build relationships with the locals and, in turn, partner with them to positively impact their community by providing things like a sound system for the local school or a basketball hoop in the community park. Seeing the excitement and joy in the eyes and smiles of each child or patient provides inspiration and reaffirmation for the work that we do and encourages me to continue participating in these endeavors.
In some countries, we have the distinct honor of partnering with the local college of nursing or medicine and providing student volunteers with educational opportunities that they are able to carry through their training.
Any final thoughts or areas that you would like to share?
If you have ever thought about serving someone overseas with your training and skills, now is the time to put that thought into action. The one life you change may change your own.