Monday, September 5, 2011

"Meeting of Minds"

Today eight surgeons with cultural and religious differences met on neutral ground for a “meeting of the minds.” I did not know what to expect or how productive this event would be but in the end I’m left with positive anticipation.  The biggest concern prior to this meeting was the corruption of the political and medical system here in Afghanistan. It is well known that outside aid to this country is substantial but amazingly a great portion of it does not make it to the patient in need.  Fortunately our mission is one of mentorship and not providing medical supplies.  My suspicions will remain high of the end intentions of the providers we meet today as their main concern was “what can we give them?”, and not as much of “what can we teach them.”  The meeting was led by my co-surgeon Joe J who has some experience with Afghan local national care from a previous deployment.  It was apparent that these Afghan surgeons had an agenda they wanted to follow but Joe J and the rest of us shut them down quickly to stay on the point of our purpose; mentorship. We learned about the current make-up and capability of the Afghan medical system; which is depressing, and the projected five year plan for improving it. If we can work within our mission I’m certain we can improve the care of local nationals.  U.S. military withdraw is imminent and I would like to know I improved this place to some degree in the short time here.  At the end of the meeting I reinforced that our intention is one of compassion and not politics and I hoped theirs was the same. Afterwards I spent some time with the Afghan orthopedic surgeon who was present.  He excitedly showed me multiple surgical cases he has done in recent months and asked for my opinion.  With the extreme lack of orthopedic hardware I was impressed with ingenuity he used with simple supplies; this learning experience is definitely going to go two ways.  We all shook hands and said our final farewells, and then out the door into the summer heat they went. Mike M, Joey T, Joe J and I then met for a meeting recap.  We were all felt the meeting was positive and look forward to pursuing it further.  There is still a significant amount of work ahead to get this underway but at least today we can say the process has started. 
Joe J and I went to the gym following the meeting.  Today will be the last day to work on my combine bench press effort so I added another 10% to my intensity today; 6 days left until the event and my adrenaline is already pumping. 
After my workout I saw a bunch of orthopedic consults for Charlie Company this including a Sargent who was lucky to still be with us.  He was shot at multiple times by insurgents and sustained only a superficial wound to his leg; 5 bullets were stopped by his body armor, 3 in the front and 2 in the back.  So if you ever wondered if the money that was spent on this equipment was worth it now you know.


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