During the PGY-6 year, chief residents have the opportunity to participate in a one-week immersive experience in Guatemala. This is an ACGME- and ABPS-approved elective rotation that is built into the chief year. No vacation is taken, expenses are paid for by the department and the cases are able to be logged as part of the training program.
The week begins on Saturday by boarding a plane in Kansas City with the team, which consists of:
- 1 chief resident
- 2-3 faculty members from KU Plastic Surgery
- CRNAs, NPs, nurses, surgical techs and logistics coordinators.
We land in Guatemala City and then take a three to five hour van ride to San Lucas Toliman.
The community where our program is based sits on the edge of the beautiful Lake Atitlan. During our visits, we enjoy sipping Guatemalan coffee on our hotel restaurant deck and basking in the morning sun on the lake. Learn more about San Lucas Toliman.
Hospital Monsenor Gregorio Schaffer Clinic
We spend Sunday through Friday working at the hospital, typically from 7:30-5. On Sunday, we see all prospective patients in the clinic and screen them for surgery. The patients are all from San Lucas Toliman or the surrounding rural region where they reside. All are either established or recruited patients by our local host, Dr. Rafael Tun. In addition to new patients, we see post-ops and returns from the previous trips. This gives us the unique opportunity to have longitudinal follow up on all of the patients who we are able to operate on. In a single day, we typically see 60-80 patients and then set the operative list for the week.
Cases are performed Monday through Friday, simultaneously running two beds for general anesthesia and one bed for local procedures. Chief residents choose the cases that are of most interest to them to perform either on their own with oversight or with a faculty member assisting. We perform a wide variety of cases including: microtia, primary clefts and revisions, vascular malformations, congenital hand, hand trauma, burn reconstruction and wound care. A total of 40+ operations are typically performed on each trip. Patient rounds are held each morning prior to starting in the OR and then following completion of the day's cases. Follow up continues when we return to Kansas City via photos and video conferencing with Dr. Tun and the patients. Chief residents are expected to participate in these follow-up visits to maintain continuity and see results.
On the final day of our trip, we take time to enjoy our surroundings. After Saturday morning rounds, we embark on a day of leisure. In past years, activities have included zip-lining, shopping in the surrounding villages, kayaking, swimming in Lake Atitlan and hiking San Pedro (one of the nearby volcanoes).