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Voices: Worldly Influence

Feb 21, 2013

Worldly Influence | Ebony Hoskins, MD

Ebony Hoskins RESIZEThis is a guest blog based on Dr. Hoskins’ experiences with Health Volunteers Overseas.

As a fellow, I recalled receiving an email from the SGO asking for volunteers to travel overseas to work with medical professionals caring for gynecologic oncology patients. That email sparked my interest, however due to the time constraints of fellowship I did not participate. I knew as an early career gynecologic oncologist that I wanted to expand my clinical interests beyond the United States borders.

Thankfully, I had a second opportunity to participate when I learned about One Team One Goal at the Fall 2012 SGO State of the Art Conference, where I was introduced to the SGO-affiliated Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) organization. This non-profit organization unites dedicated SGO members and forms a team of physicians to educate and share knowledge of gynecologic oncology with students, residents and faculty in underdeveloped countries. HVO also has affiliations with most medical societies, so global influence is not limited to oncology. I was fond of the mission of the organization so I eagerly joined HVO and inquired about upcoming volunteer opportunities.

(From left to right) Kathy O'Neil, MD; Ebony Hoskins, MD; and Sarah Temkin, MD.

(From left to right) Kathy O’Neil, MD; Ebony Hoskins, MD; and Sarah Temkin, MD.

Luckily, there was an immediate opening for an additional gynecologic oncologist for the February 2013 trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I bought my ticket, the hotel was arranged and the next thing I knew I was in Tegucigalpa, Honduras! I met my HVO comrades at the airport in Honduras. Our team consisted of SGO member Dr. Sarah Temkin, another gynecologic oncologist; Dr. Kathy O’Neil, a radiologist who focused on radiologic imaging of gynecologic malignancies, and Dr. O’Neil’s husband John Norton, an IT specialist who worked on World Health Organization (WHO) tumor registry development.

During our stay in Tegucigalpa, we were assigned to Hospital San Felipe. It is a 200-bed public hospital, which serves primarily as a referral center for serious oncology cases throughout Honduras. The hospital has four surgical oncology faculty members and six surgical oncology residents serving as the only surgical oncology-training program in the country.

Dr. Hoskins and Dr. Temkin performing surgery at the Hospital San Felipe in Honduras.

Dr. Hoskins and Dr. Temkin performing surgery at the Hospital San Felipe in Honduras.

The surgical oncology program was established 10 years ago and has three senior residents and three first-year residents. There are no second- or third- year residents because the government had considered closing the program down.

The residents enter into surgical oncology directly out of medical school. It is a four-year training program encompassing a range of surgical oncology specialties: from performing a simple hysterectomy on a post-radiated cervical cancer patient to performing a nephrectomy on a patient with renal cancer. The residents are well read in all surgical oncology fields and also medical oncology, and their faculty members frequently test them.

The breadth of their training amazed me! I began to ask more questions and I realized that I too am a student. What I found most interesting was the majority of patients taken care of by the surgical oncology residents and staff were patients with cervical cancer and other gynecologic malignancies. As I talked with them more and listened to their well thought out questions at our lectures, I truly appreciated the need for SGO participation in their training program.

The SGO’s affiliation with HVO allows us extend our knowledge and clinical experience to our colleagues in Honduras and other countries, in order to provide improved medical care throughout the world.