Surgical Mission Work

Dr. Frenzel is involved with a small group of surgeons, nurses, scrub techs, general helpers and translators that travel to various third world countries to do surgical mission work. Some of their trips are sponsored by MMI, Medical Ministries International, and sometimes the group just goes on their own or in association with a Christian organization.

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The group goes on average to 2 or 3 mission trips every year and they travel all over the Caribbean and South and Central America. A few of the recent countries that they have visited include the Dominican Republic, Bolivia and Ecuador. The surgical mission trips take the group to very poor and under served areas of these countries where they help the under served people of these communities who otherwise would not get any elective or emergency surgical care. Many of these areas are so poor that the facilities that the group works in have no running water, no working bathrooms, no air conditioning and many times they are running their electricity off a diesel generator. When the gasoline runs out…well its lights out literally. Seriously, Dr. Frenzel said “I have been in the middle of operations when we lost electricity and I had to finish under the light of the nurses holding flashlights.” Many times the group is operating in 100 degree plus temperatures without air conditioning and after they put on their surgical gowns it can get extremely hot to the point of being very uncomfortable. The group brings all their own equipment and surgical supplies. There are a few places that they return to on a regular basis, one being the Dominican Republic, which helps because the group has good contacts there that will store the equipment and supplies. Also, the living accommodations can be very poor with no hot water and sometimes no water at all. There is a very long preparation time for these trips as the supplies have to be prepared and packed in about 50-75 huge duffel bag. This is coordinated mostly by amazing nurses. The group tries to get most supplies donated by the major manufactures.

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The group provides mostly general surgical and pediatric surgical care. All the procedures are open as they do not have any laparoscopic equipment in these remote areas. Common procedures that are done are gallbladder resections, hernia repairs, breast mass/cancer excisions, thyroidectomies, appendectomies, thyroglossal duct cysts, colon resections etc. They also do some urology and obstetrical procedures including c-sections, tubal ligations, hysterectomies, circumcisions, and hydrocele repairs. In the third world environment, when these people present to the surgeons, if they don’t help them then no one will so they do procedures that they don’t routinely do in the United States. Dr Frenzel said “even though in the United States I am specialized surgeon having completed two fellowships after my general surgery residency, I am still a general surgeon at heart. The nice thing about general surgery is that it trains you to be comfortable operating essentially from head to toe, whether in an elective or trauma/emergency setting.”

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An example of a typical trip would be as follows…..it takes about a day to two days to travel from the US and arrive at the destination town. Then the group unpacks and sets-up the operating, recovery rooms etc. which takes about a day. They then start seeing patients and operate for about 4-5 days and another 1-2 days is spent packing up and seeing the patients. The groups last trip was to Ecuador in March of 2010 and they operated for four 15 hour days, they did 104 major General/Pediatric Surgical procedures, 19 C-sections and a couple hysterectomies. This was done by 4 general surgeons with the help of 4 surgical residents that joined them from The University of Connecticut and one medical student from NYU.

Dr. Frenzel said “my favorite surgical procedures in third world countries are probably doing the C-sections and all the pediatric cases. There is something special about bringing a baby into the world and helping the pediatric population.”

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When asked why he got involved in this kind of work he said, “the reason why I do this work comes down to one word…Servant Hood.”img_1878       img_2175       

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