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Webster Fellow's Remembrances

I'm on the way home from Zambia on my final trip as ReSurge's Webster Fellow. I had the opportunity to visit the Serengeti and witness the annual Great Migration of more than 1.5 million wildebeests, zebras and gazelles instinctively heading north towards food and water. What a wondrous sight to see these animals speckling the hillsides in an orderly fashion, following in the footsteps of their ancestors for thousands of years. This spectacular panorama reminded me once again that the universal drive for survival is innate in all creatures. We all seek the basics of life: food, water, and shelter.

Once the basics are achieved the quest expands towards living a better life. However, we live in a world where there is much disparity in wealth and opportunity. In my travels this year, I saw this disparity firsthand and its impact on society. In many developing countries, health care is a luxury, available only to those who can afford it. Humanitarian organizations such as ReSurge, which provide free medical or surgical care in developing countries, are vital in helping those who cannot afford care. ReSurge team trips bring plastic surgical care to places that do not have access to reconstructive or burn surgery.

Nevertheless, just providing care isn't enough; we have to help provide infrastructure so this care can become self-sustainable. Paramount in this process is education. For the countries with no medical schools and training programs, we need to help educate and train health care providers by sponsoring scholarships or grants. ReSurge is currently doing this by supporting Dr. Oumar Coulibaly's pediatric surgery training in Cote d'Ivoire so he can return to his native Mali to care for his own people. ReSurge has also offered scholarships to train plastic surgeons in some of our other partner countries. The ultimate goal is to have countries start their own residency programs for training their own plastic and reconstructive surgeons. We have seen this successfully accomplished by some of our outreach partners in Ecuador, Bangladesh and Nepal. Dr. Jorge Palacios started the first Ecuadorian plastic surgical residency program in 2001, Dr. Shafquat Khundkar the first Bangladeshi one in 2002, and most recently, Dr. Shankar Man Rai the first Nepalese one this summer.

Each country presents different needs as ReSurge works to help them achieve sustainability in the delivery of reconstructive surgical care. To help meet those varied needs ReSurge sends visiting educators (VE) to teach in-country medical personnel. This year, visiting educators will provide training on nursing, anesthesia, dentistry, orthodontics and speech, hand and physical therapy, as well as on specific surgical topics in burn, hand, micro, and craniofacial surgery. Currently ReSurge VE trips outnumber team trips, demonstrating the evolution of the organization's focus towards helping countries achieve self-sustainability. The vision, of course, is that ReSurge as we know it will no longer be needed, with every country in the world having ample resources and manpower to provide reconstructive surgical care for all its people.

Thank you everyone for an incredible year! It's been a genuine pleasure working with you all.

Joyce is now practicing in St. Louis, Missouri.

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