Parag Gandhi, MD
Parag Gandhi, MD
Ophthalmology · Rosedale, MD

Virtue Foundation Mongolia 2023

May 17th
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Project Description

The Virtue Foundation team of surgeons across multiple specialties including neurosurgery, ophthalmology, ENT, general surgery, pediatric intensive care and more will travel Mongolia as part of our annual healthcare initiative. The team will work with our long-standing Mongolian colleagues to treat the people of various regions, including Ulaanbaatar, Khovd, and Khuvsghul. Moreover, one of the key goals of Virtue Foundation outreach is to work closely with our counterparts and train them to best manage complex cases. Long term, the goal will be to further sustainability of advanced surgical care in Mongolia.

Population Served

Our teams will be working in multiple healthcare facilities in Ulaanbaatar, Khovd, and Khuvsghul. We will be serving a wide range of patients from pediatric (e.g. oculoplastics,strabismus surgery), to the elderly (e.g. cataracts). Patients are recruited and subsequently screened by our surgical team. We seek to support the most vulnerable and underserved populations. We focus on the patients and cases that would potentially face the greatest barriers to access care, either based on geographic distance or complexity of disease/surgery requiring specialty care.

Expected Impact

Last year's mission saw us screen over 600 patients and perform approximately 200 surgeries. This year's mission is expected to have the same if not larger impact based on expansion of the team and locations. Some supplies will be donated to our Mongolian colleagues for future use by the local doctors in their ongoing cases and patient care. Key emphasis is placed during the mission to teach local doctors so they can continue to perform similar surgeries once we depart (and in between our annual visits).

Trip Photos & Recap

The Mongolia mission trip of May 2023 was my fifth Oculoplastic Surgery mission trip to Mongolia with Virtue Foundation since 2015, and an opportunity to continue collaborating with the surgeons, trainees, and staff of the Ophthalmology department of First Central Hospital (FCH) in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city. Over the many years of working in the western part of the country as well, the Mongolia residents and surgeons would travel and meet us there for a full week of patient screening and surgery. This time, we again had the opportunity to work closely with them in Khovd, one of the most western provinces close to the border of Kazakhstan. Based on the format of this trip including patient care and teaching, most impacted were the adult and pediatric patients who underwent surgery, mostly the nomadic Mongolian and Khazakh people of the region, and the trainees who observed and assisted during these operations. A US-based Oculoplastics Fellow also joined me on this mission, as they have in the past, and this was a great introduction to international health and surgical outreach trip planning that will serve her well in her career. Also impacted were the hospital staff and nurses, who had an opportunity to work with our our nursing team with the cross sharing of skills and knowledge. And certainly for me, this continues to be an incredibly rewarding experience seeing the orchestration of all of these aspects, as well as not only continuing in the training of, but also learning from the attending surgeons in Mongolia now working independently in the care of their patients. We hope to return in the future and continue to expand this program in other parts of Mongolia needing improved access to vision and healthcare. Thank you for the opportunity!! The photos I am sending in this trip recap include Khovd city, our working hospital, the local doctors and staff, some of the surgeons and residents from FCH in UB, our teams in action in the OR, and some of the other amazing things one sees in Mongolia, such as Buddhist monasteries, old palaces, and wide open areas of the steppes with many fascinating encounters - like a herd of Bactrian camels!