AAO-HNSF Humanitarian Travel Grant Report: Community Empowerment, Dominican Republic
In March a group of Loyola University physicians, including myself, and nurses traveled to the Dominican Republic (DR) with the goal of providing much-needed ENT care.
Sara Yang, MD
In March a group of Loyola University physicians, including myself, and nurses traveled to the Dominican Republic (DR) with the goal of providing much-needed ENT care. We spent a week in San Juan de la Maguana, located in the western portion of the country, approximately 40 miles from the border separating Haiti and the DR. San Juan is a community without access to ENT care. Patients traveled long distances to be seen. From the moment we arrived, we immediately started triaging patients to determine who required surgery later in the week.
The subsequent days were long as we operated on and evaluated many patients in clinic. Despite the busy days, we were motivated to see each person who made the trip to see us. Many had never had the opportunity to see an ENT physician before. There was a lot of gratitude from our patients, and we felt honored to be able to share our skills and knowledge.
There was also an opportunity for teaching and mentorship. I presented a lecture in Spanish on different ENT emergencies to the residents training at Hospital Dr. Alejandro Cabral. Medical students from Santo Domingo volunteered their time to provide Spanish translation in the clinic and operating room settings. Anesthesia was covered by Dominican anesthesia residents who worked closely with us to set a rhythm and flow to our operating days.
By the end of the week, we had evaluated 100 patients in the clinics and operated on 63 patients with a variety of pathologies, including recurrent tonsillitis, thyroid goiters, submandibular pleomorphic adenoma, and parotid tumor.
The ability to have a smooth and efficient outreach trip would not have been made possible without the assistance of Community Empowerment, a Chicago-based organization founded by Stephanie C. Crane, MD, with the focus of providing essential healthcare to underserved communities while working in tandem with local leadership for sustainability. Through Community Empowerment, we were introduced to a community of dedicated Dominicans who volunteered their own time to serve their community. Community Empowerment ensured appropriate follow-up for the patients we treated and continues to set the foundations for future trips by working closely with local surgeons, anesthesiologists, and medical students.
This was my first surgical outreach trip made possible by the AAO-HNSF Humanitarian Travel Grant. I am grateful for the opportunity, especially to go with physicians and nurses I worked closely with during residency. I am proud of the care that we delivered, and I know the experience was life-changing for both the patients and all of us providing care. This trip has definitely inspired me to incorporate humanitarian outreach work in my future career.