Behind the Scenes of a Medical Mission: Preparing for Angola 2023

By Fabio Vanin

Post from Madison Pribyl

Medical missions require extensive planning and preparation. The International Extremity Project team spends months preparing to ensure that our trips run smoothly and we achieve our goals. Work starts up to a year in advance with selecting the dates and location of the mission as well as identifying team members.

Once we've set a date and chosen a team, we turn to fundraising. Individual team members are responsible for a quota that covers their flights and accommodations as well as necessary medical supplies. Fundraising is a genuine grassroots effort. Each team member personalizes their efforts, showcasing their dedication to the IEP's success. Next, we secure flights and visas with the help of our generous partners and sponsors within the host country.

As we get closer to the travel date, we begin regular meetings between the core IEP team members and our partners. These meetings emphasize just how valuable our partners are to our success. Without their knowledge and access, we would surely struggle.

This week, our doctors met with members of Chevron’s medical liaison team, the Angola Ministry of Health, members from the Martha Namunjebo-Tilahun Foundation, and representatives of First Lady of Angola, Ana Dias Lourenço.

Discussion topics ranged from assessing locally available medical supplies to understanding the hospital's technological capabilities. One critical subject was the language barrier between our team, patients, and local medical staff. Coordination with our partners to ensure access to translators is crucial.

Outside of regular meetings, our Nursing Director Jenni Lehnert works diligently. She is the key to keeping us organized from the day we decide to plan a mission to the day we come home. Jenni creates a master task list and spreadsheet with important team-member information, including contact details, vaccinations, and emergency contacts. She prepares the master patient list, daily surgery schedules, inventory, and post-op instructions.

Part of that task list is ordering and packing necessary medical supplies. We engage with multiple medical supply companies and charities to acquire materials. The team then meets a few months before the mission to organize and pack our supplies for the journey.

The planning of each medical mission is certainly not light work. Each mission requires months of pre-work, plus patience and adept organization skills. These efforts ensure that our patients receive the best possible care and that our teams remain safe.

As always, our goal is patient success. We all know that this goal is at the forefront of each component of the preparation process.

We look forward to seeing the results of our efforts during our trip to Angola.