Orthopedic surgeon Scott Sigman, MD, has taken his care outside the U.S. and completed a volunteer trip to serve patients in Honduras.
Dr. Sigman, of OrthoLazer Orthopedic Laser Centers in Rochester, N.Y., spoke with Becker's about his experience.
Note: Responses were edited lightly for clarity.
Question: Tell me how your volunteering in Honduras came about. Why was that country chosen?
Dr. Scott Sigman: The Honduran medical mission is sponsored by One World Surgery. They have a world-class surgical facility outside of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Michael Redler, MD, is a dear friend and colleague, and he is a [volunteer with] One World Surgery. He goes on one or two missions per year and he asked me to join him.
Q: What were the most common cases you did there? What were the biggest challenges patients faced?
SS: We were able to do ACL surgery, rotator cuff and shoulder instability surgeries. Another orthopedic team was able to perform 25 knee replacements on the same mission. One of the challenges is bringing in the implants required to perform the surgery. The medical device companies donate the materials, and we hand carry them with us on the plane. The biggest challenge is for the patients. There is a waitlist of 7,000 patients. Most patients walk hours to a bus and then take a long multiple-hour bus ride to the clinic. All surgeries are performed free of charge to the patients.
Q: What orthopedic technologies and innovation do you want to see more widely adopted outside the U.S.?
SS: It is remarkable how, with enough energy and volunteers, most major elective surgeries can be performed at the local center in Honduras, including general surgery, gynecological surgery, spine surgery, joint replacement, sports medicine, thoracic surgery and plastic surgery and reconstruction.
Q: How has volunteering strengthened your own work as a surgeon? What are your next goals for future volunteering?
SS: This experience volunteering was a highlight of my 25-year surgical career. I plan to do a mission once a year. It was incredibly gratifying to share my expertise with people that are so in need and so appreciative of the work and healing we performed.
Q: What would you say to other surgeons considering volunteer opportunities abroad?
SS: My main message to other surgeons that are interested is that you can perform mission work in your chosen specialty and expertise. Many surgeons are put off by missions because they are worried they will be asked to perform surgeries in which they have little experience. That is not the case at One World Surgery. All areas of surgery are needed and can be performed with confidence and successful outcomes for some of the most deserving people on the planet.