Project Medishare | A time to teach
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A time to teach

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Since the bladder retractor the Emory team planned to use was in a piece of lost luggage, Drs. Viraj Master and Jana MacLeod asked two medical students to scrub into surgery.

Since the bladder retractor the Emory team planned to use was in a piece of lost luggage, Drs. Viraj Master and Jana MacLeod asked two medical students to scrub into the prostatectomy surgery. Emory medical students Adam Carlisle and Rachel Webman helped pull the bladder back so the prostate could be in view for removal. Photos by Jennifer Browning.

By Jennifer Browning

Hinche, HAITI—Rising shortly after the sun, Emory’s surgical team began to organize their equipment in the operating room at the hospital in Hinche. The first thing they needed to determine was what supplies were missing from a bag that didn’t arrive.

An absent bag this time meant that a much needed bladder retractor was missing. So today during the first surgery Dr. Jana MacLeod asked third year medical student Rachel Webman and second year medical student Adam Carlisle to scrub in to help with the simple retro pubic prostatectomy.

“We used them as a bladder retractor to pull the bladder aside so the prostate could be in view,” Dr. MacLeod said. “It worked well because it allowed them to see pretty much everything we were doing.”

This was Webman’s first time scrubbing into the operating room.

“Nervous as all hell,” Webman said, “but it was great. I was hoping I was doing everything right. You don’t get to do that stuff when you are a second or third year medical student. You just don’t get your hands wet the same way. I never learned to retract before today.”

Webman said it was interesting to see the different resources that may or may not be available in a developing country.

“Being in surgery it was surprising the way [the doctors] deal with not having certain items that are so readily available in the United States,” Webman said. “And all the while Dr. Viraj Master and Dr. MacLeod were teaching us.”

The students attending from Emory University with the aid of Dr. Rick Spurlock raised $20,000 to make this surgical trip possible. Both Webman and Carlisle agree that their trip to Haiti with Emory and Project Medishare gives them experience they wouldn’t receive during this point and time of their education.

While it was Carlisle’s second time scrubbing into the operating room, he felt being in the operating room this time made his learning experience here in Haiti a unique one.

“You have three groups who are all giving and receiving here,” he said. “You have the patients, the knowledgeable people, and then us, the students. While the patients are receiving care from us, they are giving us the chance to learn. The doctors are giving not only their care to the patients but are also giving the students the time to learn. Through it all [the students] are still able to help.”

Emory medical students look over lab reports and x-rays for consultation with Dr. Viraj Master during morning clinics.Dr. MacLeod agrees the teaching experience for both the educator and the student is wonderful situation. For example, by allowing the students to assist retracting the bladder during surgery, once the prostate is out Webman and Carlisle were able to reach in and feel the bladder and see the different layers of the abdominal wall. Dr. McLeod said experiences like this connect their basic scientific knowledge with real medicine.

“These medical students have just finished the basic science part of their studies,” she said. “Here they are getting to see the things they have been learning and how important they are, thus allowing them to transition from basic science to the application of clinical medicine.”

Both students feel fortunate of the educational opportunities they are receiving while they are in Haiti.

“We are receiving the educational opportunity that we wouldn’t get as a second or third year medical students,” Carlisle said. “It is rare for us to get a chance to step in on surgeries because most of those opportunities [at the university] are filled by residents.”

Dr. McLeod said at this stage the medical students are open to learn.

“They are like sponges; they soak it all in,” McLeod said. “They don’t have the concept yet that they are a doctor, so they are open to everything because they don’t already have a specific style. It’s a nice stage to be teaching.”

More importantly Dr. MacLeod said being in Haiti as a first, second, or third year medical student allows the students to see the goal that lies ahead.

“They begin to realize, this is why I study until midnight,” McLeod said, “all the studying means something to them now so they can say, ‘This is why I am in medical school.’”