Today, we are featuring our Board Vice Chair and dedicated IVUmed volunteer, Francis Schneck, MD. Dr. Schneck, who is a pediatric urologist, will lead his 20th IVUmed workshop this August when he travels to Uganda.
Dr. Schneck has trained surgeons in several countries since 2010, including Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, Trinidad, and Zambia. When asked why he started volunteering with IVUmed, Dr. Scheck commented that IVUmed workshops elicit hope. Dr. Schneck says that IVUmed workshops are very meaningful: “You rediscover why you’re working in medicine … You get back to the reason why you went to medical school in the first place, why you really worked your butt off to get there, and then stayed in and tried to become a half decent doctor.”
IVUmed’s focus on teaching creates an opportunity for volunteers to make a lasting impact. Volunteers train local surgeons, who are then able to treat patients even after IVUmed teams return home. “The people that you’re training are just as good as you are.” Dr. Schneck said. “They just haven’t seen the types of surgeries that you do every day. They haven’t had the opportunity. They learn very quickly and then quickly become as good if not better than you at doing the same thing.”
Beyond creating a lasting impact, IVUmed volunteers build meaningful relationships. “It sounds corny, but some of the friends you make, you keep for a long time,” Dr. Schneck said. “Part of the reason why I like to go back on these trips is to connect back with the people I’ve known for a decade now from going to their country. It’s a homecoming in a lot of ways.”
He added that he jokes with the head of urology in Kumasi, Ghana, “When can I come home again?”
As a veteran volunteer, Dr. Schneck has learned a lot about IVUmed workshops. “I’ve learned that it takes time for these programs to mature. Your first two or three times at a sight, you might feel like nothing is catching,” he said. “You go back the next year and realize it’s started to take off. My hope is that I can keep going and we can still go to places that may not at first seem to be as viable as we hope they are and then they end up surprising us.”
One of the most important aspects of IVUmed workshops is providing talented surgeons in low-resource countries with mentors who will help them mature and grow as urologists throughout their careers. “I think [workshops] give people the idea that there is more that they can do,” Dr. Schneck said. “They realize there’s a bigger picture out there. It goes beyond the bounds of the country they’re in.”
He added that the workshops give these surgeons, “somebody they can call, email, or Skype and say, ‘this is something I want to try to tackle’ or ‘this is an operation I want to know how to do’ or ‘we have a patient issue.’ It’s just good to know you have someone out there who’s rooting for you, to be quite honest. And then it’s up to them.”
IVUmed thanks Dr. Fran Schneck for his expansive, generous, and continued involvement with IVUmed! We appreciate his leadership in our organization and everything he does to ensure we Teach One, Reach Many.