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Open Access Project Note

Intensive medical student involvement in short-term surgical trips provides safe and effective patient care: a case review

Ira L Leeds1*, Francis X Creighton1, Matthew A Wheatley12, Jana B Macleod134, Jahnavi Srinivasan14, Marie P Chery5 and Viraj A Master16

Author Affiliations

1 Emory University School of Medicine, 1648 Pierce Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322 USA

2 Department of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, 1648 Pierce Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322 USA

3 Department of Surgery, Aga Khan University Hospital, 3td Parkland Ave, PO Box 30270-00100 GPO, Nairobi, Kenya

4 Department of Surgery, Emory University School of Medicine, 1648 Pierce Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322 USA

5 Project Medishare for Haiti, Rue Tamarin #9, Thomonde, Haiti

6 Department of Urology and Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University School of Medicine, 1648 Pierce Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322 USA

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:317  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-317

Published: 1 September 2011

Abstract

Background

The hierarchical nature of medical education has been thought necessary for the safe care of patients. In this setting, medical students in particular have limited opportunities for experiential learning. We report on a student-faculty collaboration that has successfully operated an annual, short-term surgical intervention in Haiti for the last three years. Medical students were responsible for logistics and were overseen by faculty members for patient care. Substantial planning with local partners ensured that trip activities supplemented existing surgical services. A case review was performed hypothesizing that such trips could provide effective surgical care while also providing a suitable educational experience.

Findings

Over three week-long trips, 64 cases were performed without any reported complications, and no immediate perioperative morbidity or mortality. A plurality of cases were complex urological procedures that required surgical skills that were locally unavailable (43%). Surgical productivity was twice that of comparable peer institutions in the region. Student roles in patient care were greatly expanded in comparison to those at U.S. academic medical centers and appropriate supervision was maintained.

Discussion

This demonstration project suggests that a properly designed surgical trip model can effectively balance the surgical needs of the community with an opportunity to expose young trainees to a clinical and cross-cultural experience rarely provided at this early stage of medical education. Few formalized programs currently exist although the experience above suggests the rewarding potential for broad-based adoption.