A group of fifth term medical students of Trinity School of Medicine took part in a quarterly joint venture with the World Pediatric Project (WPP), conducted at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in Kingston, St. Vincent, earlier this month. This is a crucial time for Trinity's students, as they are at the end of their final basic sciences term and preparing to take their USMLE Step 1 licensure exams, transitioning them to the clinical phase of their education.
This was the 10th mission of the WPP for their operating year, this time focusing on neurosurgery, and was conducted by a five-member team from Virginia. The group comprised 9th-mission group leader, Dr. Gary Tye, pediatric neurosurgeon; Dr. Viktor Palys, neurosurgery resident; Dr. Jay Shapiro, pediatric anesthesiologist; Joanne Pollard, operating room nurse; and JoAnn Tillett, circulator/recovery room nurse.
Over the two consultation days, fifty-three patients were seen, with twenty-three of them from other Caribbean countries (Grenada, St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Kitts, and Nevis).
The cases were a mix of follow-ups and new patients, with five scheduled for surgery at Milton Cato Memorial, Trinity’s affiliated teaching hospital and one referred to the US for care.
Trinity’s students were heavily involved during the mission, receiving instructions from the veteran doctors while still working one-on-one with the patients, evaluating new and returning post-op as well as follow-ups. The fifth term students were also given the opportunity to engage in on-site teaching sessions on case presentation, assessment, and investigation.
The students expressed their excitement at being involved in the mission. Sarah Seyffert said, “It’s one thing to read the information in a book but it’s another to see it in front of your face. Every student should do something like this as many times as they can."
Gianna Guzzardo appreciated the way in which the clinic was conducted: “It really helped to reinforce the concepts that we’ve learned in class. Although we do the rotations at the hospital, it was my very first WPP experience. In my other pediatric rotation, we saw fewer patients; today, I’ve seen about thirty. It’s been great!” she detailed.
Timothy Bleckley, on the other hand, spoke of the patients’ progress: “We got to see a variety of patients, a lot of them with great progress and a lot of follow up. It was really good to see the progress of the kids. I’m really excited.”
Charelle Smith recommended that students grab these opportunities early in their school life. She said, “It was nice to be able to triage all the patients, see their past history as well as their present history, and see how far they’ve come. We were able to look at x-rays and MRI’s and diagnose patients. The surgeries start this week and I’m very excited to go and sit in on my first neurosurgery.”
“I would recommend that students get involved in rotations like these from their very first term, because what happens is that you develop a rapport with the community and it becomes easier to communicate, to understand the dialect. You then earn their trust. Although it’s not the same, exact patients you may see in the first and second terms, but you become more comfortable, so by the time you get to fifth term it’s easier to take a history, easier to engage.”
As evidenced here, a major benefit of Trinity's curriculum is its affiliation with Milton Cato Memorial Hospital. Students start acquiring clinical experience in their first term, applying their classroom knowledge right away. This anchors the school's academic approach to the practice of medicine, directly tying the lecture hall to the patients.
The patients, doctors, students, and administration of Trinity are, as always, happy to note that the surgeries were all successful.
Trinity School of Medicine will continue providing support to the World Pediatric Project, a relationship that not only provides valuable exposure and experience for its medical students, but makes a contribution to the quality of life and care of the school’s host nation, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.