By Dr. Mike Fruscione

I just got back from our Haiti medical mission trip and am so grateful to Spaugh Dameron Tenny and Bless Back Worldwide for this amazing opportunity. I cannot rave enough about every aspect of the trip- from the wonderful patients we met, to the care we provided and the culture we experienced.

Bless Back is an incredible organization with deep roots to Haiti. I felt that each day was productive, efficient and effective for the goals we set. In addition, we got a taste of Haitian culture. We learned how to live and perform our duties as physicians with limited resources.

Here are seven takeaways from my GOtoGROW scholarship experience:

Before Trip Eagerness
I was most excited to meet and treat the people of Grand-Goâve, as well as, operate alongside the surgeons at the local hospital. From both the clinic and operating room, I was very interested to learn how to utilize limited resources to provide the best care possible to the patients.

I was also excited to experience Haiti in terms of the people and culture. I have traveled extensively and enjoy cultural immersion, particularly the food and local customs.

Traveling with a group of strangers was also exciting for me.  The group was very diverse in terms of their practice specialties, so I felt that I would learn a lot from each of them and hoped to make some new friends.

As for what I was most nervous about…well, as a 4th year general surgery resident, I have not had much exposure to tropical diseases as well as primary care medicine.  I felt that I was a bit rusty, but excited to re-acquaint myself with diagnosing and treating common patient complaints.

Mission Trip Goals
Overall, my goal was to make a difference in the lives of the people we touch, as well as, continue to build upon the foundation Bless Back and Mission of Hope have created. I really hoped to make some good connections with patients and staff in order to instill an ongoing relationship for patients to seek care. After spending a week in Haiti, I would ultimately like patients to establish care with Mission of Hope to address both acute and chronic problems.

Bless Back Worldwide’s Sustainable Contribution
Haiti Medical Mission Trip

We had a diverse group and were able to leverage each other’s skills, talents, and specialties. The Bless Back team was welcomed by the patients.  Knowing in advance of our arrival, patients flocked to the clinic each day. Moreover, when we set up a mobile clinic in a local village, people both young and old sought care. We provided the patients with comprehensive and effective care, and instilled with them a place they can come to for their health concerns.

Making the Most With Limited Resources
Haiti Medical Mission Trip

The Haitian people are exemplary of this theme. After enduring the earthquakes, hurricanes, and political unrest, the Haitians are resilient, resourceful, and innovative. They make the most of what they have. Our mission was similar. We had a limited supply of medications and tools, as well as, time. We were each limited in what we could do, relative to the care we provide in the United States. With the support of Bless Back, Mission of Hope, and each other, we made a big difference in hundreds of patients’ lives.

Haiti Medical Mission Trip Patient Highlight
A young man came to the hospital with a large disfiguring neck mass. We were able to safely and effectively remove the mass in surgery. This young man will do well and purse a normal life.

Do medical missions help with physician burnout?
ABSOLUTELY.  The mission reaffirmed why I became a physician/surgeon. It has raised my awareness of global health and allowed me to see how I may effectively administer care with limited resources. Oftentimes, we rely heavily on expensive tests and imaging to diagnose disease. On the mission, I returned to the basics of medicine with heavy reliance on history and physical exam. I was invigorated by the experience.

Life-changing Experience
Setting up the mobile clinic was awesome. We traveled to a nearby village and used a small classroom in what looked like a barn as our clinic. In little time we arranged areas for intake, pharmacy, patient encounters and disposition. As soon as our bus appeared, patients, both young and old, arrived. Not only did we address their current problems, but also arranged for follow-up in our clinic.

Haiti Medical Mission Trip

The Bless Back team was amazing. The diversity of the group contributed to the success of the Haiti medical mission trip. Moreover, I made six new friends and developed strong relationships which will continue into the future.

Our host, Mission of Hope, and, Madam Lex in particular,  was wonderful. She was always bright, cheery, and full of energy. Having been in Haiti for 17 years, she had such a wealth of knowledge of Haiti and its culture. She also is exemplary of dedication of the Haitian people in developing this mission. She made sure we were well hydrated, nourished, safe and comfortable every day.

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