July 8, 2011

Virtue Foundation sponsors third surgical teaching mission to Mongolia; volunteer surgeons deliver critical care to patients and provide sustainable skills transfer to local surgeons at the First Hospital and the National Cancer Center in Ulaanbaatar

In May 2011, Virtue Foundation’s Director of International Programming and Global Health Dr. Ebby Elahi led a team of volunteer surgeons, residents and medical students to Mongolia to perform free, essential surgical care and to train local surgeons toward sustainable advancements in surgical healthcare delivery in the country’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar. Dr. Michael Shohet and Dr. Sasan Royaie of Mount Sinai were among the attending surgeons accompanying Dr. Elahi on the mission. Virtue Foundation sponsored the team of ophthalmologists, ENT surgeons, a liver cancer surgeon, a micro-vascular surgeon, residents and medical students from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Medical Center in New York, and the Sheba Medical Center in Israel to work alongside teams of local surgeons from the First Hospital and National Cancer Center in Mongolia.

“This year’s mission was a complete success. Our team of outstanding surgeons provided much needed surgical care, technological skills transfer, and education in collaboration with our Mongolian counterparts,” said Dr. Elahi. In particular, Dr. Elahi’s team served more than 170 patients, conducted over 60 surgeries, and provided more than 150 hours of best-in-class clinical training using the most up-to-date surgical techniques. In addition to providing critical care and skills training, the team worked tirelessly to procure more than $50,000 of donated equipment and supplies to ensure the mission’s success and to adequately equip the Mongolian teams to continue to implement advancements in surgical care.

Dr. Elahi added: “Virtue’s surgical mission work is innovative and sustainable because it builds and nurtures relationships for long-term, year-round partnerships and provides important opportunities for bidirectional teaching and learning.” In 2009 and 2010, volunteers implemented teaching surgical missions in Mongolia as well, performing more than 100 ocular and oculoplastic procedures and several didactic sessions at the First Hospital of Ulaanbaatar (see more). Future directions for collaboration include establishing virtual, real-time, year-round support to local counterparts through online diagnoses and consultations with Virtue Foundation volunteer surgeons and further expanding Virtue’s mission team to provide additional skills transfer on the ground.

In addition to this year’s surgical mission, Virtue Foundation also conducted needs assessments in Ulaanbaatar, Khovd, Arvaikheer, Tsetserleg and Erdenet. Specifically, Program Director Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum met with more than 50 government leaders, healthcare and education professionals, community leaders (especially women leaders) and others who outlined various development needs and resources of communities in Mongolia. The Foundation’s needs assessment goals were to: (1) determine whether future surgical mission work can be expanded to include service delivery and capacity-building in cities outside of Ulaanbaatar, and (2) explore viable long-term partnerships for sustainable development projects for community advancement in our key focus areas: health, education, and empowerment.

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