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Changing Lives in Honduras

By William Prentice, ASCA Chief Executive Officer

Late last year, I introduced readers of this column to the Holy Family Surgery Center – an ASC one hour north of Honduras’s capital city, Tegucigalpa. Inside that facility, Hondurans who are unable to afford the surgery they need are receiving life-changing surgical care for free. It’s time for an update on that program.

The ASC continues to be owned and operated by One World Surgery, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization committed to providing access to high-quality surgery globally. Working in three operating rooms and seven overnight recovery bays, the local staff at the Holy Family Surgery Center and volunteers performed more than 1,000 surgeries during a single year for the first time last year. The ASC also added spine surgeries to its case mix recently, and professional staff at the center are confident that they can continue to offer those procedures into the future.

Building on the success of this center in Honduras, One World Surgery is now working to open a second ASC in the Dominican Republic. If all goes as planned, that center will begin providing surgeries to the citizens of that country in 2021.

Amid this expansion and growth, one important aspect of the program remains largely unchanged. One World Surgery continues to coordinate one-week medical missions that give physicians, other clinical staff, nonclinical personnel and family members an opportunity to travel to Honduras and help at the center. Each medical mission team includes up to 60 volunteers, and the ASC welcomes an average of two teams each month. In 2018, these volunteers provided more than 30,640 hours of service.

Typically, about half of the members of every mission team have clinical experience, and team members include three to five physicians and 20 nurses and other clinical support staff such as surgical techs and sterile processors. Volunteers without medical experience perform administrative and support duties in the surgery center and assist on the children’s home, Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH), that shares the 2,000-acre ranch with the Holy Family Surgery Center.

You do not have to be an ASCA member to join a mission trip, but thanks to a partnership agreement between the ASCA Foundation and One World Surgery, if you are a nurse, surgical tech, scrub tech or – this year, for the first time – a CRNA or sterile processor who works at an ASCA member facility, you might be eligible for an ASCA Foundation scholarship. These scholarships cover one coach round-trip airfare and the program fee that pays expenses like food and lodging, ground transport in Honduras, and emergency medical and evacuation insurance.

If you are an ASCA member and want to learn more about the opportunities available through ASCA, go to ascassociation.org/ows-scholarships. If you are not an ASCA member, go direct to oneworldsurgery.org to learn how to join a medical mission trip.

Another first for the Holy Family Surgery Center this past year was the opportunity to host its first all-women’s medical mission. The center worked with the Surgical Care Affiliates (SCA) Women’s Network to coordinate that trip, which brought more than 30 women, including an all-female clinical team, to Honduras. The women involved helped in the ASC, conducted a donation drive and led empowerment workshops with local women. ASCA board member and SCA Vice President, Strategy and Payer Engagement Marie Edler, MPH, was a part of that team.

In a recent ASC Focus magazine article, Cathleen McCabe, MD, vice president of the Outpatient Ophthalmic Surgery Society and the OOSS Gives Foundation spoke about her involvement with medical mission programs over many years.

“Medical missions transform the lives of everyone involved,” she says. “I am inspired to do more and leave each mission with a renewed sense of purpose and energy. In our profession, burnout is real and turnover is expensive. The intensity of our line of work can impact our well-being, but these opportunities to give to others in a life-changing way keep giving back to me and my team long after we return home.”

“Organizations that thrive have a giving component to them,” she adds. “The dynamic of your team changes when you focus on something greater than yourself.”

One World Surgery Medical Missions Manager Maria Doria says that she hears comments like those regularly from people who join the medical mission trips at the Holy Family Surgery Center. “Our mission is not only about transforming our patients’ lives,” she says, “it’s also about transforming the lives of our volunteers and igniting that spirit of service within them.”

As someone who has traveled to Honduras, spent time with the people who work at this ASC and gotten to know some of the people whose lives have been changed by the surgery the ASC provided, I can attest that Maria and others at One World Surgery are accomplishing their goal.

Before I close, I have a quick reminder for everyone interested in the new Certified Ambulatory Infection Preventionist (CAIP) credential available from the Board of Ambulatory Surgery Certification (BASC): Now is the time to apply to take the next exam. This credential is the only one designed specifically for infection preventionists who work in an ASC and recognizes a comprehensive understanding of the skills and knowledge that role requires. To be able to take the next exam, you must submit an application this August. The exam will be offered online at an approved testing center in October.

William Prentice is the chief executive officer of the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association.

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