I am excited about my upcoming medical mission trip to Rwanda. I will be gone Feb. 8 through Feb. 24, but I will have coverage for my practice. Patients need only call our office phone number to be put in touch with the on-call doctor if needed.
In February 2011 I made a similar trip with the American Association for Cervical Pathology and Colposcopy (ASCCP). The ASCCP is the organization that develops the Pap screening guidelines based on the most current research. We went to Nairobi in 2011 to teach local physicians how to use the colposcopy and LEEP machines donated to them by a non-governmental organization. Colposcopy is done for the evaluation of abnormal cervical cells and LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure) [include link to website pages discussing these procedures] is performed to shave precancerous cells off the cervix in order to prevent progression to invasive cervical cancer. Unfortunately, due to the lack of widespread screening practices, many women in the developing world are still dying needlessly of cervical cancer. In the United States the death rate of cervical cancer is about 1.1 per 100,000. In most Sub-Saharan African countries the rate is 10 to 20 times higher.
In our travels to Rwanda, we will again be teaching colposcopy and LEEP. The first week consists of didactic training, and the second week is hands-on training with patients needing the procedures. Teaching in these settings is especially rewarding because the physicians are very eager to learn and to use their new skills in preventing the countless deaths they see from cervical cancer.
We also plan to take a few days on an excursion to see Rwanda’s mountain gorillas. Fortunately, due to conservation efforts, these endangered animals are making a comeback. It will be a special treat to be able to visit our ancestral cousins in their natural habitat.
I value medical missions such as this because they renew me. While I greatly appreciate and care for my patients here in Boulder, practicing medicine in the United States is also often rife with increasingly frustrating administrative demands. None of those are present when I am on a medical mission. I get to enjoy what originally drew me to medicine — the direct, personal contact with patients and the opportunity to teach other medical practitioners. Hopefully, I will have some interesting stories and photos to share on my return!!!