The first time Gayle Woodson, MD, went on an international otolaryngology outreach mission 15 years ago, she was “a little afraid to go.” The chair of otolaryngology at Southern Illinois University in Springfield was traveling to Tanzania, a country prone to violence and war, and there was no telling what kind of environment she was entering.
Explore this issue:December 2010
Dr. Woodson still recalls what an impression the experience made on her. “I was always thinking I wanted to give back. On my first trip to El Salvador, we had armed guards at all times. Over time it was a lot safer, and it was incredible to see the changes in the people—standing up straight, and looking us in the eye with dignity,” she said.
Dr. Woodson is one of approximately 10 to 15 percent of the 9,000 members of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) who, according to Catherine Lincoln, CAE, MA, senior manager of the Academy’s International/Humanitarian Affairs Committee, participate in international medical missions. Volunteers include practicing otolaryngologists, residents and retirees, she said. But while doctors say such trips are intrinsically rewarding, how can they know the missions are measurably successful?