Mallah M. Mallah M.D. shares his love of global surgery and how it expands ones horizons

November 30, 2023
Dr Mallah Our Voices

I love surgery, particularly global surgery! I love international travel. I’m a personification of those two elements combined.

The scalpel teaches me…no reveals to me…that under the skin, we are all the same. In the same way, global travel—and I don’t mean visiting the French Rivera, I mean finding a place off the beaten path—teaches me how we are all ugly and amazing in the same ways. Realizing that notion is a beautiful thing.

Take, for example, my most recent trip. I was on a plane to Ecuador to work with Cinterandes.  The Cinterandes Foundation is a first-of-its-kind non-profit organization that improves access to surgical care in rural Ecuador by taking the operating room physically to the patients. They literally built an operating room on the back of a large cargo truck, similar to a U-Haul. A mobile surgical OR!

So what did I witness? I arrived midday and they were well into their operative cases for the day. Eight planned operations—laparoscopic, that’s right laparoscopic cholecystectomies, umbilical hernia repairs, lipoma excisions – and they were on number three. A family medicine physician, Dr. Blasco Guzhnay, preps the patients ahead of the surgical team’s arrival. He ensures patients have been properly vetted and have obtained the necessary imaging, labs, etc.

After surgery, the patient is brought out the back of the truck on a platform that is lowered to the ground. There is minimal “staff” so the family members of other patients waiting for surgery pitch in and lift the post-operative patient onto a sheet where he or she is taken to a recovery bed.

I don’t know what is more heartwarming: seeing the physical and simultaneous metaphoric coming together of a community around a person who is in need, or watching those same patients walk out of our “camp” the next day feeling much better.

Although the people of Ecuador should be praised for how they come together—and they are truly beautiful people—believe me when I tell you, I’ve seen this same display of humanity by communities around the world. I’ve seen them surround those who are ill with love and community in the Syrian refugee camps of Za’tari in Jordan, clinics in rural Guatemala, by Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, in the only government hospital in Gaborone (Botswana). Global Surgery reminds me of our collective and beautiful humanity. Or as the people of Southern Africa taught me – Ubuntu – meaning “I am, because we are”

I'm grateful for the opportunity to witness dedicated teams around the world and see what becomes possible when knowledge, skill, and care are shared across borders and barriers. Believe me, underneath everything, we are all human - vulnerable, marvelous, and connected – regardless of our differences.

On second thought, I change my mind. Don’t believe me.

Go and see it for yourself. Or come with me.