HVO volunteer David M. Sheps, MD, MSc, FRCSC, teaching shoulder arthroscopy in Wenzhou.
Courtesy of David M. Sheps, MD, MSc, FRCSC


Published 5/1/2016
Alan Giachino, MD

Seeing China with HVO

Orthopaedic volunteers needed in Wenzhou
In October 2015, Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) celebrated a decade-long partnership with the Wenzhou University Orthopaedic Program in Wenzhou, China. The partnership began in 2006, with a collaboration between HVO and the Second Affiliated Hospital at Wenzhou Medical University. The goal was to create a volunteer project to enable physicians in China to gain expertise and experience in various orthopaedic subspecialties.

In the 10 years since the project's founding, 24 volunteers have trained local surgeons how to perform several different specialized orthopaedic surgical techniques. Experts in hand, spine, and hip surgery have traveled to Wenzhou to expand the knowledge base of their Chinese colleagues. The visits have also enabled volunteers to immerse themselves in the culture of their gracious hosts.

To mark the anniversary, Wenzhou Medical University hosted a ceremony celebrating the university's relationship with HVO. The event was led by on-site coordinators Dr. Zhang Yu and Professor Xu Huazi. The university invited all those who had volunteered with HVO in this project, as well as their spouses and HVO staff to return to Wenzhou for the occasion.

As HVO's project director to the site in Wenzhou, I accepted the invitation to attend the 2-day celebration with my wife. Two former volunteers, their spouses, and a member of HVO's staff also attended. The anniversary afforded me an opportunity to reflect on the project and its ongoing need for volunteers.

The Wenzhou University Orthopaedic Training Program is one of the largest in Zhejiang province and has benefitted tremendously from its partnership with HVO. As an academic teaching center in a developing country, the program has made great strides in developing its specialties, including micro- and spine surgery, with assistance from HVO volunteers.

HVO volunteer David M. Sheps, MD, MSc, FRCSC, teaching shoulder arthroscopy in Wenzhou.
Courtesy of David M. Sheps, MD, MSc, FRCSC
(Left to right) Dr. Jiang Liangfu, Dr. Sheps, Dr. Ted Tufescu, and Dr. Chen Long.
Courtesy of David M. Sheps, MD, MSc, FRCSC

These efforts were led by Dr. Zhang and Professor Xu, who trained in a fellowship at the State University of New York's Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1999–2000. The desire for the beneficial advice, teaching, and interaction offered by HVO volunteers has continued throughout the decade. With the project's focus on "teaching the teacher," the dissemination of didactic and practical orthopaedic knowledge has a ripple effect in improving the quality of orthopaedic care for the population.

As the project moves forward, HVO seeks orthopaedic volunteers with specialty expertise to continue teaching and training residents. No language training is required for volunteers as most orthopaedic residents in Wenzhou speak English. If necessary, presentations can be accompanied by immediate translation. In addition to a very friendly and safe work environment, the program offers volunteers free room and board, and staff often accompany volunteers on weekend sightseeing trips.

In addition to the project in Wenzhou, HVO has orthopaedic programs in Bhutan, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Malawi, Myanmar, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, Tanzania, and Uganda. Volunteers are always welcome, and the visits provide valuable experiences for orthopaedic surgeons at any stage of their careers.

Alan Giachino, MD, is in private practice in Ottawa, Ont., Canada.

What Is HVO?
Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the availability and quality of health care through the education, training, and professional development of the health workforce in resource-scarce countries. HVO volunteers provide clinical and didactic education to students and colleagues through continuing education and degree-granting programs, faculty and staff training, mentoring, education material development, and professional collaboration. For more information, visit www.hvousa.org