Game Changer in Laos
Updated: Aug 6
Dr. Craig Kent with some of the surgeons and staff he teaches at Mittaphab Hospital
Often an internationally-known physician will be willing to help REI by training someone who works in a developing country. A few years ago Dr. Craig Kent, REI Field Director for Laos, spent six weeks in Dr. Adrian Parks’ lab in Maryland where he showed him how to teach laparoscopy to others. It was a game-changer.
Coming back to Laos, Craig was absolutely confident that the skilled young surgeons that he had already worked with for a few years would be able to become proficient in laparoscopic surgery. After learning how to use the camera, monitor, and new techniques, they watched and then assisted with the procedures and fairly quickly were completely competent on their own.
Not only did Dr. Phaynakhone (third on the right) succeed in the
appendectomy procedure, he also excelled at winning the hospital-wide
Pétanque competition (a game similar to Bocce ball).
Lao people are accustomed to leaving the country when they have serious medical problems. In places where a patient cannot get the care needed, two-thirds of these patients die. Even if the medical care is available in Laos, people don't respect their country's level of care, and often seek it out in neighboring Thailand. Even more so, foreigners living in Laos who become sick leave the country for treatment.
So Craig was pleasantly surprised when a Canadian colleague called him from a northern Lao province to say that his employee, a Singaporean, needed to have an appendectomy. They flew into the capital city, and Craig set up the procedure with one of his surgeons. The surgeon performed the first laparoscopic procedure done on a foreigner in the country! It went well and the patient was discharged the next day.
When Craig saw the surgeon in the morning, Craig was beaming and said, “I am so proud of you!” He smiled and said, “You are my teacher.”
REI's mission is "building people to build nations." Developing the proficiency of local doctors is one way REI is building the country of Laos.
Even during the COVID lockdown, Craig continues to teach surgical English.
The Vice-Dean of the medical school has stated emphatically,
"You can't be a good doctor without knowing English.