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Maximizing Heart through Humanitarian Efforts

The essential mission of the head and neck humanitarian is to provide safe, efficient, thorough, and compassionate care to the underserved patient population with limited resources. But accomplishing this goal requires more than just time and compassion. This Panel Presentation will provide the experience earned from on-the-ground missions from experts in each of the most commonly represented subspecialties able to deliver humanitarian care: head and neck oncology, facial plastic and reconstruction, otology, and general otolaryngology. 

“Those who provide care in the developing world do so with the best of intentions,” said panelist Susan R. Cordes, MD. “However, without proper research and preparation, there is considerable potential for unintended consequences that could result in detriment to the patients, personnel, or the entire mission.  During this session, panelists will cover practical information for providing care. Common procedures performed during humanitarian missions will be discussed, including pearls for managing the patient pre-, intra-, and post-operatively.  Also, ethical issues are inherent in any humanitarian work, so ethical considerations will also be addressed.”

Maximizing Heart, Minimizing Headache

Today, 8:45 – 9:45 am

GWCC, Building A, Room 312

The panelists will provide must-haves and things to avoid in order to maximize care during the trip, as well as tips for efficiency in preplanning. Examples include: the most versatile surgical equipment to maximize utility, how to predict the needs of your patient population, managing complex teams with multiple specialties and disciplines, maximizing efficiency and minimizing unused resources, and surgical procedures to avoid during humanitarian trips.

It’s an important session to attend, regardless of the level of your participation in humanitarian efforts, Dr. Cordes said. 

“For those with experience providing humanitarian care, the session will provide an opportunity to learn what others are doing and identify areas for improvement,” she said. “For those who are interested in participating in humanitarian otolaryngology for the first time, it will provide invaluable practical knowledge for providing safe and effective care in low-resource settings. Finally, those who are not participating or planning to participate in humanitarian work will find the session interesting as panelists share challenging cases and how they have managed them in a resource-limited setting.”

“If conference-goers are at all interested in humanitarian efforts, this is information they would really want to know,” said panelist Gregory J. Basura, MD. “These panelists have had firsthand experience in-country with the pitfalls and trials and tribulations of doing this kind of work. We know the nuts and bolts of what to do and what not to do.”

Dr. Basura said the session is designed to help participants identify common hurdles to completing international humanitarian efforts, and to educate them on how to organize surgical strategy on humanitarian trips so they will be able to provide their own efficient care. “They will learn tips and tricks about recruitment, patient population identification, and personnel requirements, among other things,” he said. 

“As travel accessibility and communication methods improve, surgeons and other healthcare workers in record numbers are travelling to low-resource countries to provide care,” Dr. Cordes said. “Without careful preparation and knowledge, such experiences can be disappointing or even dangerous. As leaders in the healthcare community, physicians must set the example of providing such care in the most thoughtful, conscientious, and safe manner possible.  Anyone who has thought about participating in humanitarian otolaryngology should attend this session and join the discussion about how we can provide the best otolaryngology care, not just in the U.S., but around the world.”