Thursday, September 15, 2016

Namibia Mission in Review: Bruce Lehnert

Once again, our team hit a home run on many levels with the recent trip to Namibia. We were able to correct deformities in those who are limited in walking and socially stigmatized as a result. But we also worked very closely with the Ministry of Health and the University of Namibia Medical School.

It was a really wonderful rounded experience that took our mission to a new height.

It is amazing that we have so many supporters and sponsors. In particular, United Africa Group helped along every step of our journey, starting with planning, interfacing with the Ministry of Health, and providing logistical services while we were in Namibia. IEP is so lucky to have United Africa Group working with us in Namibia.

Now to start planning the next mission....

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Week 2 in Namibia: 14 Surgeries Complete

Drs. Lehnert and Ip confer with a local surgeon.
Our focus in our second week at Katatura Intermediate Hospital was surgeries and post-surgical follow-up with patients. Because of publicity in the first week, a few additional patients also came in for screening. Thankfully, we were able to add several of them to the surgical schedule, especially since most had traveled significant distances to see our team.

Week 2: 14 patients: 8 children, 6 adults

Due to communications mishaps in contacting patients over the weekend, we had only three patients ready for surgery on Tuesday. We re-arranged the schedule and lined up 12 for Wednesday, our last day at the hospital. We didn't want to leave without treating as many patients as possible.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Week 1 in Namibia: 24 Surgeries Complete

Children's ward at Katutura Intermediate Hospital, Namibia
Our first week in the hospital was definitely busy. In addition to the actual surgeries, the team visited patients in the wards, and continued screening more people to add to the following week's schedule. 

The surgical cases range in complexity from soft-tissue release procedures to ankle reconstructions. Likewise, the origin of their deformities varies. Many of our patients have clubfoot deformities while others have been in car accidents or have physical challenges related to cerebral palsy.

One of our patients, a nine-year-old boy with complications related to polio, is especially remarkable. And not because of his physical challenge. During the first day of screening, he sat patiently while people tended to those around him. I'd noticed him alone and expected a parent to return to his side so I could gather the intake information. After awhile, it was clear that he was alone.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tuesday in Namibia: Surgeries at Katatura & Lectures at UNAM

I'm sitting here in Namibia working on patient files while watching the Olympics from Brazil on South African television. I'm feeling rather global at the moment -- and maybe a bit tired from a busy day.

Today was our first day of surgeries at Katatura Intermediate Hospital. We treated seven patients ranging in age from 6 to 47 years old with a range of procedures.

The hospital medical staff has been instrumental in keeping everything running smoothly throughout the day. I can imagine it's a challenge to quickly figure out how to work with new people, especially six new surgeons from two countries. Even with English as the primary language, there are communication challenges along the way with a variety of accents in the room. Protocols, terminology, and workstyles are always different -- which is a big part of what makes it interesting for the surgeons to learn from one another and share their skills across an operating table.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Monday in Namibia: Meetings and Patient Screenings

We started work in earnest today, starting with some of the doctors going to the medical school for a tour and to watch students do presentations.

Several of us then went to the Ministry of Health, where we met with Minister of Health and Social Services the Honorable Dr. Bernhard Haufiku and Permanent Secretary of Health Dr. Andreas Mwoombola. We had the opportunity to learn more about the medical system throughout the country and the Minister's plans for the future. There's a lot going on toward improving medical care overall, including setting up an orthopedic center of excellence. This, of course, is of great interest to our team and we're happy to have the opportunity to play even a small part of these efforts.

Members of the IEP team with Dr. Mwoombola and
Honorable Minister Dr. Haufiku.

The Ministry of Health is working to renovate hospitals and build state-of-the-art operating rooms to treat patients and train doctors.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Welcome to Namibia

Windhoek, Namibia
A quick note to start things off!
The sun is bright, the temperatures mild, and there is a group of people playing drums in a nearby building. Somehow that just makes this more real.

After a couple of long travel days, the team is all situated in Windhoek. The medical team consists of two orthopedic surgeons from Israel, four podiatrists from California, our head nurse, our nursing student, and me.*

The activities start tonight with a reception hosted by our gracious hosts from United Africa Group. Their work has been a significant part of making this mission happen, so we're glad to connect with them this evening.

* My job here is an interesting mix, for the paperwork to the operating room.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Licensed and Ready to Go to Namibia

From Bruce Lehnert:

As we move closer to our departure date, the U.S. and Namibian team members are closing all the loops for the upcoming mission. 

Earlier this week, Namibian medical licenses were issued to our surgeons. With just a few more details related to coordinating the patients and operating rooms, we'll be finished with the pre-trip detail list. 

Just two weeks until we depart!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

IEP & Dollies Making A Difference in Nambia

Madison Pribyl and Dr. Wing Ip
Post from Wing Ip, who is traveling on her third mission with IEP and her first to Namibia.
Surgery is two-fold, comprising the work of the surgeon followed by the work of the patient. For the patient, it takes a lot of bravery and determination to go through a life-changing surgery that will enable them to walk again, to be able to go to school and participate in their community.

Therefore, International Extremity Project is happy to announce that for our upcoming trip to Namibia, we have formed a partnership with Dollies Making A Difference, a wonderful non-profit community of women who create hand-made dollies and bears to those in need.

We are honored to be ambassadors for Dollies Making A Difference. And we're excited to hand-deliver bundles of joy and love to our patients. I know they will find comfort in having them during their recovery.

Recovery can be grueling, especially patients who may be bed-bound for weeks and lose even more of their independence while their body heals. Unfortunately, because surgery is not without risks, many of our patients experience trepidation that the results may not unfold as planned. So yes, there is a lot of work by the patient, physically, emotionally, and mentally. And in the case of children, even more so.

Last weekend, most of the California-based IEP team gathered to organize and pack supplies for the upcoming trip. We're bringing along the dolls and bears in preparation for our 9,000-mile journey to Namibia.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Team Member Bio: Lawrence Oloff, DPM

The 2016 mission to Namibia will be Dr. Oloff's first with the International Extremity Project. He practices foot and ankle surgery and podiatry at Sports, Orthopedic, and Rehabilitation Medicine Associates (SOAR) in Redwood City, California.

Dr. Oloff has a strong history in the San Francisco Bay Area, including affiliations with local professional sports teams and teaching positions.

Diplomate, American Board of Podiatric Surgery

Athletic Team Affiliations
  • San Francisco Giants, Team Podiatrist, 1998-Present 
  • Santa Clara University, Team Podiatrist, 1992-Present 
  • San Francisco 49ers, Team Podiatrist, 1992-2006 
  • San Jose Ballet, Attending Podiatrist, 1992-2002
Teaching Positions
  • Dean for Academic Affairs, California College of Podiatric Medicine 1988-1992 
  • Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Chief Foot Clinic, Stanford University Medical Center 1992-1995 
Professional Societies
  • American Podiatric Medical Association 
  • California Podiatric Medical Association 
  • Santa Clara Valley Podiatric Medical Society 
Academic and Professional Awards/Distinctions
  • Podiatry Management, Most Influential Podiatrists 2011 and 2006 
  • Distinguished Practitioner, National Academies of Practice, 1989 
  • Excellence in Medical Writing, American College Foot Surgery 
  • First Place: 1984 
  • Second Place: 1983 
  • Third Place: 1988, 1986, 1985 
  • B.S., Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY
  • D.P.M., Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
  • Internship/Residency: Delaware Valley Medical Center, Bristol, PA

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Getting the Equipment Ordered for Namibia

Along with organizing all the details for getting the team to Namibia, we also have to gather the equipment we'll take with us. Jenni Lehnert, RN -- IEP's nursing director -- works her magic and reports on her progress...
I am currently working with Project Cure to procure power equipment for surgery in Namibia. We're finalizing our order for small bone saws and high-speed drills. Surgical equipment company Stryker the equipment to Project Cure, which then distributes it to various medical missions.

We are waiting for the Stryker System 6 to take with us in August. The most exciting change is that all of the power tools are now cordless and battery powered, which makes them much easier to use when going to other countries with different power sources.

For more information on Project Cure go to

Monday, May 9, 2016

2016 Mission Team

Meet the team traveling to Namibia later this year. 

The IEP team is entirely made up of volunteers who share 
a passion for making a difference in a significant way.

IEP is a true volunteer organization.
No one is paid for their efforts. We use our vacation time and
are each responsible for covering the costs of airfare, hotel, and in-country
travel through donations or our personal funds.

All our supplies are donated or purchased from donations.
Most of what we don't use in patient procedures, we donate to the
hospitals to help provide supplies that are harder to obtain in locally.

Medical Team
Bruce Lehnert, DPM - Medical Director, Co-founder
Jeffrey Spanko, DPM - Surgeon, Co-founder
Jennifer Lehnert, RN - Nursing Director
Meir Nyska, MD - Surgeon
Dr. Lawrence Oloff -- Surgeon
Wing Ip, DPM - Surgeon

Support Team
Henry Duvalsaint - Mission Coordinator 
Kim Austin - Marketing Director and Patient Records
Madison Pribyl - Student Nurse

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Dr. Ip Looks Forward to Namibia

Preparing for a medical mission is a combination of managing logistics, fund-raising, and expectations. This will be Wing Ip's third mission with IEP and her first to Namibia. In her own words, here's Wing's perspective.
I am both excited and intimidated about this upcoming trip. This will be my first medical mission to Namibia, so navigating a new system and new culture, I expect will have its challenges. I also am excited to experience all the beauties that Namibia has to offer.

Of course, performing surgeries is always exciting and intimidating on its own. Anything can happen during surgery. You'd be surprised the obstacles that a surgeon may face despite thorough preparation. But that’s where a surgeon’s experience and skills shine the most. I always prepare for the worst and hope for the best.