The generous support of the Western Section of the AUA, made possible Dr. Alan Kaplan’s Traveling Resident Scholar experience where he recently participated in a locally organized workshop in Dakar, Senegal. IVUmed is grateful to Dr. Serigne Gueye for organizing the workshop and acting as a mentor.
Dr. Kaplan reported, “As a medical student in Tel Aviv, rotating on general surgery, I remember asking the chief resident – who had emigrated from Britain for surgical training – how he was able to communicate in the operating room when he first arrived. With a crooked smile he said: ‘We’re surgeons, we understand each other in the theatre; it’s like a dance.’
Seven years later, I found myself dancing a similar dance. I was scrubbed in across from a Senegalese Urologist performing a radical retropubic prostatectomy. He spoke French and Wolof (the local language) and my French is as bad as my Wolof. I had been fortunate enough to earn a scholarship to travel with IVUmed to Dakar, Senegal. Spending a week in the Department of Urology at Hopital General de Grand Yoff, I saw patients in clinic and scrubbed on open and endoscopic cases. The trip, supported by the AUA Western Section, exposed me to the difficulties of providing care in a resource-poor environment. I was particularly impressed with the agile skill with which the Urologists there adapted to and overcame obstacles that would seem insurmountable back home. Dr. Lamine, the Senegalese Urologist with whom I operated, exemplified that skill and agility.
The first thing I noticed about Dr. Lamine was his posture, erect and confident. He operated with definitive movements and a keen eye. We exchanged few words during the first part of the case, reacting and responding to each other’s moves almost by instinct. I listened attentively and registered a few of the foreign words for familiar surgical instruments. After the lymph node dissection was complete and the nerves were spared, he looked up and issued an almost salute-like nod expressing his satisfaction. It was the same approval I sought from my attendings back home and made me feel at ease.
The next thing I noticed was Dr. Lamine’s brow during a particularly difficult part of the dissection. Similar in height, his forehead came to within a few centimeters of mine while we operated. Just beneath his IVUmed scrub cap – a parting gift from prior grateful visitors – a few beads of earnest sweat showed up and lined the furrows that deepen during the tough part of an operation. I knew that sweat and had the very same lines. Once the prostate was out and the bleeding controlled, I motioned to ask how he liked to do the vesicourethral anastomosis. He deferred with a gentlemanly gesture and handed me a bent needle driver to proceed. After tying down the final knot I looked up at Dr. Lamine and declared in my best French accent, voila. He didn’t stop laughing until the skin was closed. We would operate together on several more occasions during the trip, each time delighting in our silent surgical dance. For in the OR, we truly did speak the same language.”