The World Health Organization has determined that there is a significant lack of access to surgical and anesthesia care in underserved areas of the world. An essential goal of VIA is to allow the faculty, staff, and trainees of the Department of Anesthesiology the opportunity to provide perioperative patient care in international settings. Through this service, significant benefit is immediately provided to the underserved through relief of their pain and suffering. Caring for patients with significant co-morbidities in busy, under-equipped facilities also can be extremely challenging and equally rewarding for the clinician.
Our goals in education and training involve both educating others, as well as creating a rich experience for trainees and staff of the Department. The most effective international medical mission work includes a focus on teaching local medical professionals already in the field in order to build an ongoing system of medical care provision long after U.S. workers have gone home. Though this requires perseverance and a long-term commitment, seeds planted by educating our international colleagues will pay off for generations to come.
We plan to improve perioperative care in the facilities, institutions, and countries we serve by expanding the knowledge and skills of anesthesia care providers who work there. These educational experiences may take many forms including lectures to local medical staff on practical and theoretical topics in both the clinical and classroom environment. Alternatively, bi-directional exchanges for extended periods may also achieve more advanced training goals. Ultimately, our desire is to create and support new international training programs that can train and educate significant numbers of anesthesia care providers and, thereby, more broadly impact the long-term delivery of anesthesia care.
Another unique educational program offering is the subspecialty or technique-based curriculum for continuing education that involves content experts in our department travelling as instructor teams to other locales to provide both didactic and clinical instruction in anesthetic management. Topics addressed may include advanced airway management, regional anesthesia, ultrasonography, critical care management, use of simulation in training, etc. The goal of this program is to rapidly raise the knowledge and skill level of a larger group of providers and positively impact patient care in the near term.
Our desire is for every clinical experience of the VIA program to involve Vanderbilt trainees and for all interested trainees to have the opportunity to participate in a service experience at least once during the program. Participation in both clinical and educational experiences provides a matchless learning opportunity which is not available in the context of traditional training programs. Learning about cross-cultural aspects of anesthesia care is an important goal for trainees during their international rotation. Through VIA, we will provide a safe, yet challenging educational experience that crystallizes the students’ prior educational preparation. We also hope that this experience will form the foundation for future contributions in international anesthesia due to the intense personal satisfaction gained by serving others.
The Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Department of Anesthesiology have unique research programs and resources (genomics, proteomics, educational methodologies, health services research, etc.) that can be used to help develop the best strategies for improving perioperative care of the underserved. Similarly, many underserved environments provide unique opportunities to study aspects of health, disease, and health systems interventions that are no longer possible in U.S.-based medicine. Finally, research partnerships and infrastructure development will allow VUMC the opportunity to study health issues in areas where medical research may be lacking. It is possible that the most profound impact of our program could ultimately come as the result of research investigations initiated under these auspices.