From the Editor 

e5651521-0a79-4662-9408-c8f0e9d97393Once again, in light of the recent earthquakes in Chile, Haiti and–most recently–Eastern Turkey, we turn our attention to volunteering–specifically, medical missions.

Helping us keep our focus on volunteering is NIFA surgeon faculty member Dr. Glenn Geelhoed, who, for more than 30 years, has taken medical volunteers to the poorest parts of the globe to treat patients and train local health care workers.

Now you can follow Dr. Glenn’s adventures on a week-by-week basis and also read his latest book, Surgery and Healing in the Developing World, available to NIFA students and graduates as a free download–scroll down to learn how.

For further inspiration, read on to learn about NIFA graduate Mia Powell’s recent medical mission in Peru.

Did you know that, as an RNFA student–depending on your competency level–you may be able to log your 120 internship hours on a missionary trip? (Check with your workshop teacher and supervisor to ascertain your skill level before moving forward.) Although NIFA cannot specifically arrange surgical missions for our students or graduates, toward the end of this issue we offer some resources to pursue.


Where in the World is Dr. Glenn Geelhoed?

You may have met Dr. Geelhoed as a visiting instructor at the SutureStar™ Workshops. But did you know that he is also head of International Surgery at George Washington University Medical Center and has been honored as George Magazine’s Humanitarian of the Year (2000) and the American College of Surgeon’s Surgical Volunteer of the Year (2009)?

115Since 1966 Dr. Geelhoed has spent from three to six months of every year as a medical missionary, serving the neediest of people (he affectionately calls them “the world’s bottom billion”) and training non-MDs and MDs to continue in his absence.

“I’m an American; I’ve been on the receiving end of a whole lot of advantages and have not even paid back the interest,” he says, adding that volunteers soon find they are on the receiving end of lessons in human resilience that he calls “gifts from the poor.”

 Exclusive: Dr. Glenn’s New Book

Dr. Glenn’s newest book, Surgery and Healing in the Developing World, 485 pages, was recently released at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress.

The book addresses the divide between labor- and equipment-intensive practice of medicine and surgery in Europe and North America versus medicine as practiced in the Third World, where resources are sharply limited and a majority of people live and die without ever visiting a physician. The book offers tricks, surgical adaptations and improvisations that Dr. Glenn has learned in the field.

“The author believes that the improvisations and techniques reviewed in this text can be carried back as skills learned-a gift from the Third to the First World-and adapted to the care of increasingly diverse populations of patients closer to home,” Dr. Glenn writes. “The intention is that lives should be enhanced on either side of the exchange.”

NIFA is the exclusive distributor of this book and is making it available as a FREE download for our RNFA student/graduates and readers of this e-newsletter. You are encouraged, but not required, to make a donation when downloading the book; funds will help support Dr. Glenn’s future medical missions. For an introduction to the book and to download it, click here:

Graduate in the Spotlight: Mia Powell

Name: Mia Powell
Credentials: RN, CNOR, RNFA
City and State: Huntington Beach, CA
Current Job: Works privately for an orthopedic and spine surgery practice and an outpatient surgery center
Graduate Status: Took NIFA’s RNFA class in Nevada in February 2008

Mia’s Story

I live in Huntington Beach, CA and work privately for an orthopedic and spine surgery practice; we operate out of Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, CA. The hospital has its own spine program, and we mainly do multi-level cervical and lumbar fusions there. I also work at an outpatient surgery center where I assist with single-level laminectomies and diskectomies, single-level cervical fusions, joint arthroscopies, ACL reconstructions, minor fractures, and plastic and reconstructive surgery procedures as well.

Last year I participated in a humanitarian medical mission to Peru with a team of neurosurgeons and orthopedic-spine surgeons.

We volunteered our time at a hospital in Lima, and performed 15 spinal surgeries in three days. The procedures included anterior cervical fusions, posterior lumbar interbody fusions, spinal tumor resections, laminectomies, and diskectomies. As a First Assist, I was responsible for assisting with the implantation of the hardware. I learned how to put in pedicle screws and rods, and I also learned how to harvest iliac crest bone graft.

It was such a great experience for me, and it was so wonderful to be able to help change the lives of the people we operated on while we were there. This opportunity would never have been made available to me if I had not taken the initiative to enroll in NIFA’s RN First Assist program. I look forward to volunteering my time for more surgery missions in the future.

My trip to Peru was sponsored by a spinal implant company called Innovasis, Inc., which is based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The owner of Innovasis, Dr. Brent Felix, invites orthopedic spine surgeons and neurosurgeons from around the country to volunteer their time performing surgeries in Peru twice a year. I was honored to be a part of such a rewarding experience.

I have included some photos from the trip. Hopefully they are not too bloody. The niece of one of the local Peruvian surgeons, who is an aspiring medical student, was observing in the OR and we had her scrub in with us. I taught her how to suture, and included a photo of that also.

 Interested in Pursuing a Medical Mission?

As mentioned above, NIFA cannot arrange surgical missions for our students or graduates. But we encourage you to look into volunteering on a mission if your skills are up to the task.

As for assisting Dr. Geelhoed personally; he has his own first assistants already scheduled for the foreseeable future, but you may go to the website of his organization, Mission to Heal, and fill out a volunteer application to see if they can use your services.

We have complied a list of other missions here. (Please note: NIFA does not specifically endorse any of these missions.)