The Ethics of a Medical Mission Trip

A resident’s reflections on a trip to Ecuador

Jenna Godfrey, MD, MSPH

I encountered many reactions when I returned from a medical mission in Guayaquil, Ecuador, led by Elizabeth Szalay, MD, a pediatric orthopaedist at the University of New Mexico Hospitals. My fellow residents were inquisitive, asking about case volume, types of procedures performed, and my level of participation in the cases. Family and friends were more interested in my depiction of poverty, neglect, and miracle fixes. But one very thoughtful attending physician didn’t sugarcoat it when he asked, “What if one of the patients has a complication?”

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