sharing meals, playing soccer, exchanging articles of
clothing, and so on.
After participating in conversations with the residents, the staff at the University of Rome noted that
these physicians appear more mature after their rotations. Before going to Africa, one of the most important
expectations for the residents was achieving a large
income. After returning from Africa, the major priority for these residents shifted to less finance-driven
goals, specifically an interest in helping other people.
Luxurious cars, dinners in sophisticated restaurants,
or lavish holidays lost their allure in comparison with
developing personal relationships and providing optimal care to patients.
The staff of the hospital also has observed a significant improvement in the residents’ clinical abilities,
as well as enhancements in their observational and
communication skills, which are essential for providing quality care no matter the environment.
Approximately 20 percent of the residents have voluntarily returned to the mission hospital for periods
of two to six months in order to provide surgical care
to those in need, as well as to help mentor other residents working in the region. Funds for their renewed
mission work are provided by DFA.
Gianluca de Vito, MD, the first surgical resident to
journey to Saint-Luc (and a co-author of this article),
decided to remain and work in Africa. He married
a journalist from Holland who also was working in
the region. Dr. de Vito has spent more than 25 years
providing medical care to people in remote regions
The residents’ role
Resident participants live in the mission and are on duty
virtually 24 hours a day. Residents see all the admissions and visits to Saint-Luc, and they rely on local
nurses to assist in communicating with patients and
their families. Because Cameroon became a French
colony after World War I, many Cameroonians speak
broken French peppered with many dialectal phrases.
Nurses also help participants enhance their knowledge base regarding some of the more common
diseases affecting the local population, which were
described earlier in this article.
Each resident member of the program (mean age
28 years) has performed an average of 50 major and
80 minor operations. The complication rate has been
very low—less than 3 percent. The low complication
rate is generally attributed to the young age and good
health of the individuals who are able to make the
journey to Saint-Luc.
Local nurses have assisted in the delivery of
babies, about 20 deliveries per month. Residents are
involved in deliveries only if complications arise
or if a cesarean section is needed ( 5 percent of the
cases). Typically, the residents see an average of 500
patients in the outpatient clinic during the six-month
period. Most of the surgical procedures relate to
A resident performs a cesarean section,
Mother and twins at the time of discharge
(with permission of the mother)