HOPE volunteers finished a busy week at the seaport of Douala, Cameroon after welcoming new volunteer Barry Finette, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Finette is a pediatrician, professor and researcher from the University of Vermont who is doing his second HOPE mission.He was previously on board the USNS Comfort in 2011 during her visit to Jamaica and Peru.An experienced medical humanitarian worker, Dr. Finette has also volunteered in Ethiopia helping to set up Neonatal Intensive Care Unit systems and has a diploma from Fordham University in Humanitarian Aid work.
The focus for this week in Cameroon was on provider-to-provider information exchange.In the mornings, we, along with our Navy counterparts, participated in rounds and examined patients in the hospital with the local staff. Since the Naval Hospital in Douala is a teaching facility, we were accompanied by local interns, medical students, and nursing students.In seeing the littlest pediatric patients, Dr. Finette encouraged critical thinking from the students when making their diagnosis and treatment plans.He challenged them to do thorough, thoughtful hands-on assessments and to not forget the critical importance of a complete history as a part of the exam. At the end of the week, many of the students expressed gratitude for the amount of time he spent with them and what he taught. Dr. Finette also spent an afternoon in the Immunization Clinic doing well baby exams.
Volunteer Dr. Keith Williams, spent most of his time in Cameroon in the operating room with the hospital's chief of surgery or doing rounds on post-operative patients.He was greatly impressed at how competent and versatile the general surgeon was.Since there are very few trained specialist surgeons in the country, the general surgeon is responsible for surgeries as wide ranging as complex fracture repair to emergency cesarean sections to brain surgeries!Dr. Williams was able to assist on several surgeries.
As a neonatal nurse, I was hoping to see some deliveries while in Cameroon, but it was not to be. Instead, I was able to talk at length with the midwives in the unit to learn protocols used for common maternal emergencies. I also noted that the cesarean section rate was remarkably low.
I also experienced an unplanned teaching moment when I noticed a woman across the courtyard who was about to fall. I ran to her assistance and was able to catch her and hold her up using proper body mechanics. I was also able to persuade the others who had gathered to bring a wheelchair rather than make the obviously weakened woman walk. Sometimes it's the little actions that can have the most impact on others, especially when delivered in a real, spontaneous setting.
In the afternoons, our focus shifted to classroom education. Among the topics we taught during the week were Assessment of the Ill Child, Assessment of Pediatric Respiratory Distress, Emergency Surgical Procedures, Advanced Cardiac Physical Assessment, and CPR/choking. The students were all engaged, asking many questions, and eager to come back the next day for another round of classes. The week concluded successfully with a group picture of students, volunteers, and Navy personnel standing under the Africa Partnership Station 2012 banner that the hospital proudly displayed.
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