Lexi Wilson, DO
Lexi Wilson, DO
General Surgery · Denver, CO

Zambia surgical mission

April 21st
Mwandi, Zambia

Project Description

This will be a 2 week surgical mission that involves gynecological, general surgery and ENT procedures. The most common procedures performed are adult and pediatric hernia repair, thyroid surgery, hysterectomy, oophorectomy, benign tumor resections, and orchiopexy for pediatric undescended testicles. Patients travel great miles for surgical care. A major part of this trip involves education of the current Zambian providers at the Mwandi Mission Hospital in surgical techniques. The surgical impact is immense. For farmers and fisherman with debilitating hernias, it will allow them to work and provide for their families. Iodine deficiency and goiter formation is a condition that leads to social stigma and ostracization which is common in this community. The Mwandi mission hospital not only addresses malnutrition and aims to decrease the rates of cretinism and goiter formation, but the surgery allows patients to breathe with ease and and integrate back into their community without the stigma and disfiguration of a goiter. Large disfiguring uterine fibroid tumors and gynecological disease screening and management is also performed here.

Population Served

Mwandi Mission Hospital is a 100-bed hospital in rural western Zambia that serves a population of about 30,000. This population has to travel great distances for health care and surgical care. Patients have often been suffering for years with curable surgical disease but do not have the resources or savings to make the journey. The “Lozi” people are primarily fishermen and farmers that live below poverty with earning less than $2/day. Malnutrition, communicable disease including HIV, TB, and malaria are treated here in addition to neglected surgical pathology. Access to clean water, sanitation and power are major challenges in the area. Neglected medical and surgical disease greatly impacts their ability to work and provide for their families and can create generational setbacks and struggles.
My mentor Dr. Peggy Schreiber has been traveling to this hospital in Western Zambia since 1999, she has noted major surgical and medical health disparities in this part of the country with very limited access to healthcare. This mission provides advanced surgical care that otherwise would be unavailable to this community.

Expected Impact

Within a 2 week tip over 50 operations are typically performed. The impact to the patients served is immense. In addition, the Zambian physicians and nurses are trained during this 2 week trip on surgical technique, minor surgical procedures and management of surgical disease. As a chief surgical resident, I will be graduating in June 2023 and would love the opportunity to learn how I can give back and volunteer in global surgical missions throughout my career. I am passionate about teaching and supporting sustainable global health projects. Unfortunately with the limited financial resources as a resident, I cannot afford the airfare and accommodation that would allow me to volunteer for this trip. This opportunity will be invaluable in seeing how my surgical skills and knowledge can impact global communities with limited resources. In addition, I plan on giving a “Grand Rounds” presentation at St. Joseph’s hospital of the impact of this mission on the Lozi population. I also plan to research the possibility of implementation of mosquito nets for an affordable alternative to the current practice of needing donated surgical mesh. This could be a sustainable practice to continue hernia surgery after the visiting surgical team leaves.

Trip Photos & Recap

Through our two week mission we performed over 85 surgeries. The ages ranged from 3 years old to patients in their 70s. A wide range of procedures were performed which included hydrocelectomies, inguinal hernia repairs, thyroidectomies, lipoma resections, burn surgery and reconstructions, and gynecological procedures. In addition, multiple patients were seen by the medical team. It was a very successful trip and I am so grateful for Doximity for giving me the scholarship which allowed me to participate in this mission.