Board Spotlight: Eileen Sheldon 

Board Spotlight: Eileen Sheldon 

USA Headquarters
November 13, 2020

 

Eileen Sheldon, ReSurge Board member, recently did a spectacular job chairing our Transformations 2020 event. In the midst of the planning, we interviewed Eileen to hear more about why she is passionate about ReSurge and our mission.   

How did you hear about ReSurge and get involved?  

My husband and I were invited to be guests at the 2012 ReSurge Gala. The event was our first introduction to the organization, and we were incredibly moved by the mission and the passion presented that evening. I will never forget Sarah Hirsch’s (former board member) remarks about her experiences on a surgical team trip to Vietnam, followed by Dr. Bill McClure’s captivating and heartfelt stories about his involvement and why he cares so deeply about ReSurge. I am now serving my 7th year as a board member! 

Have you ever traveled with ReSurge? 

Yes! I have been fortunate enough to travel with ReSurge on five different trips and each experience has been wonderfully enriching. Being able to meet the surgical outreach partners and see the impact of the work is truly life-changing. 
 
Tell us about what keeps you connected to the organization. 

I feel strongly about supporting the important work and mission of ReSurge. I feel connected to so many of the patient success stories and I have seen firsthand how surgery can change the life of a patient and his or her family. 

How has ReSurge changed since you joined the Board? 

The organization has evolved in very meaningful ways. The emphasis on training and supporting the next generation of reconstructive surgeons in the countries where we work is extremely powerful. I have specifically loved witnessing the creation and growth of the PWRS program with Skinceuticals. 

Outside of your service with ReSurge and your professional duties, what are your interests and hobbies? 

I love the outdoors and spend most of my free time trying to keep up with my husband and two boys on various outdoor pursuits. I am also a trustee at my childrens‘ independent school in Marin and became a Master Gardener in 2020. 

What’s something that might surprise people about you? 

I have finished 7 Ironman triathlon races and hope to complete at least 1 more. 

Why do you believe someone should support ReSurge? 

Because the need for surgical care is too great to ignore! 

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Volunteer Spotlight: Deb Rusy M.D

Volunteer Spotlight: Deb Rusy M.D

USA Headquarters
October 29, 2020

How did you hear about ReSurge and get involved?
One of the University of Wisconsin pediatric neurosurgeons I often worked with, asked me to join him on a volunteer neurosurgical mission trip at the Cure Hospital in Mbale, Uganda. A colleague of mine, and ReSurge volunteer, Les Proctor MD, suggested I join him to gain some experience practicing anesthesia in a LMIC prior to this. I accompanied him on a Plastic Surgery Surgical mission in Leon Nicaragua in 2003 The following year, I accompanied our neurosurgeon on the trip to Mbale, Uganda. I was “hooked” after these trips.

I submitted my application in 2005, and shortly after, I was contacted by Interplast and asked to join a trip to Quang Ngai, Vietnam.  I was told that one of the anesthesiologists who would also be on the trip had specifically requested me to join.  This was Nancy France M.D.  Nancy had practiced Anesthesiology at the University of Wisconsin, during the time my father (an anesthesiologist) was also on the faculty, and she and my father became good friends.

What was your most memorable experience or trip?

Wow, that is a hard one to answer.   Over the past fifteen years, I have participated in 40 overseas Surgical Mission and Visiting Educator trips in 22 different countries, including trips with ReSurge International, University of Wisconsin Departments of Plastic Surgery, ENT and Neurosurgery, Sharing Resources Worldwide (orthopedics), and Operation Smile.

I have had wonderful experiences and memories from ALL of these trips. 

But here are two stories of children I have cared for on ReSurge surgical missions, that I will never forget:  

Gian was 5 when she traveled with her mother for two days from the foothills of Northern Vietnam to the town of Quang Ngai where our volunteer team was working in 2006. She was burned in a fire when she was about a year old and had severe facial burns.  She had trouble opening one eye, and could not smile.   I’ve provided anesthesia care for her twice over a period of 3 years. Following our last mission, she’s was a happy, smiling eight-year-old child.   She would be about 20 years old today.

Nisha was 11 when our team first encountered her in Jalandhar, India, 2007.    She had severe burns over her chest, neck and face from hot oil, which had splashed over her when she was ten years old.  Her neck contractures were so severe that her chin and lower jaw were held by contracture scars to her chest.  She had essentially no neck flexion or extension.  She had limited forward vision, difficulty talking, and was fed liquids through a straw, as she could not move her mouth.  She was embarrassed to be seen in public.  

Our team has provided her multiple reconstructive surgeries.  I had participated in her care for the first, and two subsequent surgeries.  Securing the airway was a major concern with the first procedure. After a focused airway exam, we determined that mask ventilation would probably be difficult, however we thought we would be able to seat an LMA (laryngeal mask airway).  An LMA would not be appropriate for the entire procedure, which we anticipated, would take 3-4 hours with risk of excessive blood loss. After much discussion and planning with the surgeons, we secured IV access, then following IV induction, placed an LMA.  The surgeon then released the anterior neck contractures (avoiding major vessels), allowing neck mobility.  She was then able to be intubated with placement of an endotracheal tube so the surgery could be completed. 

Nisha was 17 when she assisted with patient preparation during the clinic day of my last team trip visit in 2013.   Although she still hopes for more corrective surgery, she now feels comfortable in public, and continues to work in the local plastic surgeon’s clinic in Dehradun. 

Besides volunteering on trips, how else have you been involved with ReSurge? 

I currently chair the ReSurge Anesthesia Committee, and am a member of the Medical Services Committee. I have drafted the Anesthesia Milestones for our anesthesia partners abroad.


How would you describe ReSurge to someone who has never heard of us?

ReSurge is a high-performing, successful nonprofit organization.  They have committed and strong leadership, and are passionate about their volunteer base. There is great collaboration of self-organizing multidisciplinary surgical and educational teams. They are always focused on their mission which is to provide reconstructive surgical care and build surgical capacity in developing countries.

 

How has ReSurge changed since you started volunteering? 

ReSurge has grown significantly.  They have added several new corporate and academic partners.  Although there are not as many “team trips” as in the earlier Interplast days, there are now many more visiting educator trips, focusing on specific surgical procedures and intra-operative anesthesia care.  There are now organized virtual international educational didactic sessions, and educational sponsorship of several foreign surgical partners.  ReSurge has also increased administrative staff, necessary to organize these increased educational trips and educational components.

 

Have you been on the frontlines of COVID-19? If so, what has that been like for you?

Working as an anesthesiologist at a large academic center, I have been on the frontlines of our COVID-19 teams.  I have participated on the Intubation teams, and have become very adept in donning and doffing a PAPR (Powered Air-Purifying Respirator) suit. The most protective of personal protective gear. 

When COVID-19 cases were recognized and spiking in late March, all elective surgeries at our institution were halted.  Most administrators and medical service personnel worked from home or were on furlough.  The Department of Anesthesiologist physicians and anesthetists all remained at work covering intubations, and the ICUs.  We were put on 5 day 12-hr shifts covering 24/7.

Initially I was so extremely cautious, not to touch anything without gloves, washing hands frequently, and never removing a mask.  I was paranoid I would bring home COVID to family members, and initially isolated in a separate room at home following shifts.  As we learned more about the disease, knowing that most spread was airborne, I began to feel safe around family, as long as I remained in a mask at all times when out of the house, and utilized all appropriate PPE precautions when actually caring for a COVID-positive or status unknown patient.

What’s something that might surprise people about you? (I.e. hidden talents, unique experiences, etc.) 

I own a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
I have hiked the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim.
I have visited all of our U.S. National Parks (minus American Samoa-still plan to get there) 
I’ve crawled through the Cu Chi tunnels, hike to Tigers Nest and the roof of the Potala Palace, and spent a few afternoons in the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh.
I have visited 105 different countries. And hope to see more after COVID days…..

What piece of advice would you share with a volunteer who has never been on a trip with ReSurge before? 

When reflecting on all of the missions I have participated in, I realize that humanitarian anesthesia has not only become a part of my professional career, but a part of my personal identity as well. I hope to be able to influence other anesthesia residents and providers to get involved. Find a mentor in your field who has participated in volunteer medical missions abroad, and ask them about their experiences and what advice they have to offer. Understand your role and responsibilities for a trip prior to travel. Read about the Country, people, cultural norms, climate, political stability and travel advisories in advance. Know what equipment, supplies and medications are available at the site, and what you should expect to bring to provide safe care. Visit a travel clinic to get information on necessary vaccinations and travel medications you may need depending where you are traveling to, and pack any daily medications you routinely take. Most importantly, develop strong friendships with your partnering colleagues in the host countries. You will learn as much from them as they from you.

I think, probably the most rewarding experiences one can receive are those obtained when you have the ability to provide knowledge, skills and work in your field of expertise, to those more unfortunate, who would otherwise not receive this. I highly recommend all to get involved.

Besides volunteering on trips, how else have you been involved with ReSurge? 

I currently chair the ReSurge Anesthesia Committee, and am a member of the Medical Services Committee. I have drafted the Anesthesia Milestones for our anesthesia partners abroad.


How would you describe ReSurge to someone who has never heard of us?

ReSurge is a high-performing, successful nonprofit organization.  They have committed and strong leadership, and are passionate about their volunteer base. There is great collaboration of self-organizing multidisciplinary surgical and educational teams. They are always focused on their mission which is to provide reconstructive surgical care and build surgical capacity in developing countries.

 

How has ReSurge changed since you started volunteering? 

ReSurge has grown significantly.  They have added several new corporate and academic partners.  Although there are not as many “team trips” as in the earlier Interplast days, there are now many more visiting educator trips, focusing on specific surgical procedures and intra-operative anesthesia care.  There are now organized virtual international educational didactic sessions, and educational sponsorship of several foreign surgical partners.  ReSurge has also increased administrative staff, necessary to organize these increased educational trips and educational components.

 

Have you been on the frontlines of COVID-19? If so, what has that been like for you?

Working as an anesthesiologist at a large academic center, I have been on the frontlines of our COVID-19 teams.  I have participated on the Intubation teams, and have become very adept in donning and doffing a PAPR (Powered Air-Purifying Respirator) suit. The most protective of personal protective gear. 

When COVID-19 cases were recognized and spiking in late March, all elective surgeries at our institution were halted.  Most administrators and medical service personnel worked from home or were on furlough.  The Department of Anesthesiologist physicians and anesthetists all remained at work covering intubations, and the ICUs.  We were put on 5 day 12-hr shifts covering 24/7.

Initially I was so extremely cautious, not to touch anything without gloves, washing hands frequently, and never removing a mask.  I was paranoid I would bring home COVID to family members, and initially isolated in a separate room at home following shifts.  As we learned more about the disease, knowing that most spread was airborne, I began to feel safe around family, as long as I remained in a mask at all times when out of the house, and utilized all appropriate PPE precautions when actually caring for a COVID-positive or status unknown patient.

What’s something that might surprise people about you? (I.e. hidden talents, unique experiences, etc.) 

I own a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
I have hiked the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim.
I have visited all of our U.S. National Parks (minus American Samoa-still plan to get there) 
I’ve crawled through the Cu Chi tunnels, hike to Tigers Nest and the roof of the Potala Palace, and spent a few afternoons in the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh.
I have visited 105 different countries. And hope to see more after COVID days…..

What piece of advice would you share with a volunteer who has never been on a trip with ReSurge before? 

When reflecting on all of the missions I have participated in, I realize that humanitarian anesthesia has not only become a part of my professional career, but a part of my personal identity as well. I hope to be able to influence other anesthesia residents and providers to get involved. Find a mentor in your field who has participated in volunteer medical missions abroad, and ask them about their experiences and what advice they have to offer. Understand your role and responsibilities for a trip prior to travel. Read about the Country, people, cultural norms, climate, political stability and travel advisories in advance. Know what equipment, supplies and medications are available at the site, and what you should expect to bring to provide safe care. Visit a travel clinic to get information on necessary vaccinations and travel medications you may need depending where you are traveling to, and pack any daily medications you routinely take. Most importantly, develop strong friendships with your partnering colleagues in the host countries. You will learn as much from them as they from you.

I think, probably the most rewarding experiences one can receive are those obtained when you have the ability to provide knowledge, skills and work in your field of expertise, to those more unfortunate, who would otherwise not receive this. I highly recommend all to get involved.

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Sign up for our newsletter and keep up to date on the latest happenings at Resurge International. Join our Community!
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ReSurge Board Views Impact Up Close

ReSurge Board Views Impact Up Close

India,
September 29, 2020

In May, members of ReSurge’s board of directors visited our surgical outreach partner sites in Nepal and Dehradun, India. The purpose of their trip was to better understand the specific conditions and need in each location, and to view first-hand the treatment our dedicated local partners provide to underserved people in their communities year round (with time for a little sight-seeing on the side!).

We interviewed Laura Furmanski, ReSurge board chair, about her experience.

How long have you been a board member for ReSurge?

I’ve been on the board for about seven years, and just started my second term as board chair.

What made you want to join the ReSurge Board of Directors?

I first learned about ReSurge’s work as a guest at their annual gala many years ago. I was really moved by the stories of the impact ReSurge has on patients’ lives, and I was inspired by the tireless work of our surgical partners in each country. I joined the Board at an interesting inflection point when we began expanding our strategy to more explicitly embrace and foster education. I feel quite lucky to have been part of that journey with the organization.

Why do you think it is important for Board members to visit a ReSurge surgery site?

It’s incredibly powerful to visit our surgical outreach centers to understand first-hand the magnitude of need. It’s also critical to view that in the context of the environment our teams are working in–the infrastructure that exists, the broader health care ecosystem that is in place, and the specific needs of the surgeons and their teams. Each program has a unique set of strengths and challenges, which we need to take into account with our plans. There is always one key element that is constant across all of our programs, and that is the incredible passion, dedication and talent of our surgical partners and their teams.

How did the trip change your perspective of ReSurge’s work?

I think it expanded my view of our work – it made everything really come into focus. Seeing our board members who are medical professionals work with the in-country surgical teams during clinic day gave me a lot of insight into the thoughtful way they are all considering each case, learning from and educating one another and interacting with the patients. I was struck by how the discussions stayed very focused on ways to restore function and improve the lives of each patient. The team always discussed different surgical techniques, and always in the context of how to provide the most benefit to the patient, while minimizing the complexity of the procedure.

I also gained a greater appreciation for the importance of understanding the local health care system. I think Nepal is a great example of where collaborations with the medical schools, the health ministers, and organizations like PHECT-Nepal (Public Health Concern Trust Nepal) have been integral to developing local surgeons and ensuring reach into the communities across the country to find the patients that are in need of help.

How did the trip affect you personally?

When I returned from the trip, I couldn’t stop thinking about some of the patients and families that we met over the course of the week. I was struck by the resilience of each individual and the love and support of their families. Those things are universal, regardless of what country the patients live in. Unfortunately, however, the risks and access to care are still not universal. Seeing the disparity in person really reinforced my commitment to the work that we’re doing through ReSurge and inspired me to find ways to do even more, even faster, even more consistently.

Would you be interested in visiting another ReSurge surgical site or joining a medical mission trip? If so, why?

Absolutely! Given the differences in our programs in Nepal and Dehradun, India, I realized how important it is to see the programs and understand the local health care environment in each of our regions. I also found the experience to be incredibly inspirational. I feel so lucky to be a part of ReSurge’s work

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An Interview with New Laub Fellow, Chao Long

Interview with New Laub Fellow, Chao Long

USA Headquarters
September 25, 2020

We are proud to introduce Chao Long, the newly selected Donald R. Laub Fellow. Named for our ReSurge founder, the fellowship allows for a fourth-year resident in plastic and reconstructive surgery to work with ReSurge for a year in order to hone reconstructive surgical and research skills.  Following is a Q&A with Chao.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Hi there! I was born in Taiyuan, China and immigrated to Pittsburgh, PA with my parents in elementary school. The stark juxtaposition of health care in the United States versus what I had known in China set the stage for my interests in global health. These budding interests are what led me to study medical anthropology and global health at Princeton University, where I obtained my undergraduate degree. I worked as an EMT while at Princeton; this was my first opportunity to provide clinical care, and was what convinced me that medicine was what I wanted to pursue. I nurtured my interests in global health during a semester abroad at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. After I arrived at Stanford for medical school, I was lucky to have found plastic surgery quickly. I spent a research year conducting translational tendon tissue engineering research in Dr. James Chang and Dr. Paige Fox’s laboratory, and also pursued global surgery research in Cameroon and Nepal. I was thrilled to match at the Johns Hopkins/University of Maryland plastic and reconstructive surgery residency program; I am now a PGY-3, in my professional development year.

What made you want to go into reconstructive surgery?
There are many aspects of reconstructive surgery that I was drawn to, but perhaps the most influential was that the field aligned with my own belief that the role of health care is not only to save lives, but to ensure the quality of it. The questions that reconstructive surgeons ask are, “What do you want to do, that you can’t?” “What would improve your quality of life?” “What change would be meaningful for you?” These questions are the beginning of our patients’ remarkable reconstructive journeys. The pursuit of restoring form and function so that your patients can live their lives meaningfully—however they define it—is something that I find incredibly rewarding and profound. This, coupled with the creativity, the diversity of conditions, and the intimate and comprehensive knowledge of anatomy that the field demands, are just a few of the uniquely gratifying aspects of reconstructive surgery.

How did you hear about the Fellowship?
When I was a medical student at Stanford, I first worked with ReSurge through the Design for Extreme Affordability class. Shortly thereafter, the Laub Fellowship was established. Ever since, I knew that it would be a dream position for me, as it perfectly combines my interests in reconstructive surgery and global health.

What interested you in the Fellowship?
Aside from my strong interests in global reconstructive surgery, there are two main reasons that drew me to this Fellowship in particular. First, I believe in ReSurge’s model, which not only delivers surgical care, but provides training to local surgeons who are then able to deliver reconstructive surgical care. Providing surgical training and education is key to building surgical capacity and achieving sustainable improvements in health outcomes. Secondly, I wanted to understand the innerworkings of a non-profit organization. Although I’ve had experience working on similar issues in academia and in multilateral organizations, I wanted to understand how a non-profit organization like ReSurge approaches the same issues.

What are you most interested in experiencing during the course of the Fellowship?
I am looking forward to learning from one of the oldest organizations dedicated to global reconstructive surgery. There are several things that make reconstructive surgery unique in the global health world, such as its patient population, its focus on decreasing morbidity rather than mortality, and the metrics that it uses to track outcomes. I am looking forward to learning how ReSurge has thought about these issues. Additionally, I plan to conduct research on the plastic surgical workforce; these data will be critical to not only informing the development of evidence-based programs, but also are the foundation for our advocacy work!

What are your goals for the future?
My career objectives include becoming an academic plastic and reconstructive surgeon-scientist conducting meaningful health services research focused on increasing access to high quality, safe, and timely surgical care both domestically and abroad. This goal is the result of a deep-seated belief that plastic reconstructive surgery is a critical component to any healthy, robust health system. In pursuit of these goals, I am also obtaining my Master’s in Public Health degree from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and conducting health services research at The Curtis National Hand Center.

testing form here

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Sign up for our newsletter and keep up to date on the latest happenings at Resurge International. Join our Community!
* indicates required

Latest Stories

Patient Stories

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Five-year-old Huynh was born in a small village in Vietnam with a condition known as congenital hair …

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Interview with Laub Fellow Dr. Anna Luan

Interview with Laub Fellow Dr. Anna Luan

USA Headquarters
September 2, 2020

Dr. Anna Luan recently completed the Donald R. Laub Fellowship. Named for our ReSurge founder and co-funded by Stanford University, the fellowship allows a fourth-year resident at Stanford’s Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery to work with ReSurge for a year in order to hone reconstructive surgical and research skills. Following is an interview with Dr. Luan:

Q: What did you find most enjoyable about the Fellowship?

Dr. Luan: The Laub Fellowship was a great opportunity in so many ways. I loved traveling and meeting so many of our partners abroad, seeing and treating the incredible patients, working with all of the staff here at the office, and learning so much from everyone. I think what was particularly enjoyable was being able to tie together experiences and observations from individual trips to the macroscopic analyses of ReSurge’s impact on global reconstructive surgery capacity.

Q: What was a key learning that you’ll carry with you in your career?

Dr. Luan: I’ve seen firsthand the tremendous global reconstructive surgical need, and how much we can accomplish by collaborating to train and support local surgeons.

Q: Where did you go during your fellowship?

Dr. Luan: I went to Havana, Cuba; Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Kathmandu, Nepal; Dehradun, India; and Guayaquil, Ecuador. Not bad considering traveling was cut short by the pandemic!

 Q: Are there any patient stories that were really memorable?

Dr. Luan: In India, we treated a boy who presented after an infection of a dorsal wrist ganglion cyst, which left a scar over the back of his wrist which over time caused contraction of his wrist into 60 degrees of extension. This severely limited the use of his hand, and he subsequently stayed at home rather than working, going to school, or forming relationships with others. During the trip, we released the wrist contracture and were able to obtain a functional degree of wrist flexion. As tendons were exposed in the wound, which was now rather large, we performed an abdominal flap for coverage of the wound. After discussion of options including skin grafting, regional flaps, and distant flaps, an ipsilateral pedicled abdominal flap was raised and covered the wrist wound perfectly. The abdominal location allows a more comfortable position for his arm to rest while the flap matures for several weeks. He is doing well. The case was an excellent example of a teaching case with multiple principles involved, and a very enriching discussion with the local surgeons about management strategies.

Q: You’ve recently submitted a paper for consideration in medical journals. What is the subject?

Dr. Luan: Our study aims to capture the impact of the training that ReSurge has completed in Vietnam, which is useful to us internally but is also beneficial to the global surgery community by determining whether training trips are effective in improving local surgical capacity. We found that, following 12 visiting educator trips to Vietnam over 5 years, local surgeons performed a total of 2,018 operations corresponding to topics of training, with an 81.5% increase in surgical volume.

Q: How did COVID impact your experience?

Dr. Luan:  COVID really provided the impetus for accelerating our virtual education programs and adapting to the changing global circumstances. My last few months during the Laub Fellowship were partially focused on helping to develop and roll out our virtual lectures, which I think will be a lasting integral part of the training curriculum even after this all passes. It has been really exciting to see how we, our volunteers, trainees, and partners have adopted the use of virtual platforms for continuity in education.

Q: What are your future plans?

Dr. Luan: I am now back full-time at clinical duties as a resident in plastic surgery. I will be making some final decisions about specializing soon, but I know that this past year has been truly inspiring and I hope to stay involved with ReSurge and global surgery no matter where I end up in the future.

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