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Giving Back Globally: Faculty surgeon grants new beginnings

Taha dom with taha teaching

More than 30 surgeries. One week. 3,000 miles from home.

Taha Shipchandler, MD, is no stranger to performing under pressure. As division chief for facial plastic and reconstructive surgery and director of the ENT Residency Program at IU School of Medicine, his workload may be overflowing but that doesn’t stop him from giving back.

Dr. Shipchandler practices as part of a small group of healthcare providers who, once a year, travel more than 3,000 miles to Nicaragua to perform life-changing and life-saving procedures to vulnerable populations at no cost. The group, Aproquen, is a partnership between IU School of Medicine and John Hopkins School of Medicine, and consists of surgeons, nurses and students who participate in reconstructive cases for cleft lips and palates, burn deformities, nasal injuries, traumas, eye and eyelid injuries, and more.

“This partnership provides an opportunity to do so much more than just fix a cleft lip or adjust a patient’s facial construction,” said Dr. Shipchandler. “We’re giving these patients their lives back and a new beginning.”

Working in rural areas of a third world country poses some unique challenges when it comes to providing safe, effective healthcare. The number one obstacle: resources.

“We’re kind of spoiled here in the United States,” Dr. Shipchandler explained. “In places like Nicaragua, you don’t have the medical resources you’re used to having in an operating room back home. Whether it be proper anesthesia or an instrument commonly used during procedures, we have to come up with alternative solutions and work with what we have. We’re constantly ‘MacGyver-ing’ to operate and to provide safe and effective care for optimal outcomes.”

In addition to faculty surgeons and nurses, Dr. Shipchandler always brings one resident to work as part of the team. Residents must be an experienced, senior-level training physician, and demonstrate the ability to operate and teach other medical professionals independently.

“The educational exposure and experience our residents get from working as part of a surgical team in other parts of the world is unparalleled. We’re doing 30 or more surgeries in one week’s time. That kind of volume coupled with the variety of complex cases we see – it can’t be matched anywhere in the U.S.”

The team’s next trip is scheduled for September 2018. For more information on IU School of Medicine’s global outreach efforts, visit the Global Health Expertise Hub.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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