We made rounds at the Maternal and Pediatric Hospital this morning. All of the patients are doing very well, which is great. Dr. DeVries is a highly revered person. When we walk down the halls people look at her with gratitude and wonder. As one of the patients wrote on a thank you gift to her: “You are an angel sent down to us from heaven.”

The Hospital No. 1 doctors came to the hotel late morning for final goodbyes. They also brought some lovely and generous gifts for us. They already want to know which of us will be back. Every single person on this team wants to return someday. Of course it’s a long trip…but worth every moment of flying and layovers.

Dr. DeVries, Dr. Hamilton & Dr. Reddy left this morning. The remaining team members went to the black market and had an opportunity to see some of the sights in the city including a palace, the Parliament building and the National Theater. This evening we will go to another concert. This time in addition to music there will be contortionists.

There is a saying: “It’s not where you go, it’s what you do when you get there.” We stand in awe of Dr. DeVries, Dr. Hamilton, Dr. Reddy, Dr. Kuritani, Janet Vogt & Pam St. Louis for all they have done for the people of Mongolia. They will be long remembered.

Signing off in Ulaanbaatar,

Ellen & Edd Thorp, Trip Secretaries


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Friday….last day of surgery

Both teams had excellent days. Thirty seven surgeries were performed in five days — WOW! It was sad to say goodbye to the staff at the Maternal and Pediatric Hospital, but it was wonderful to see how much better the children felt. Dr. Sujith Reddy joined the team there today in order to experience both locations. The local surgeons were very happy to have mastered some new techniques. They were also pretty thrilled with the donations we were able to leave behind.

Our days have been long but we have been very lucky to have had two young ladies as interpreters — Zaya and Ayuna. They have been our lifesavers in and out of the hospital; staying by our side through late dinners and shopping. Everyone here has taken excellent care of us.

We were able to take the whole team to a Mongolian concert this evening. It was fascinating. We were all mesmerized by the “throat singers”. They make multiple sounds at once, all with different tones. Remarkable! We also enjoyed listening to the Mongolian National Orchestra and watching folk dancing. Things are not very expensive here: the entire 1.5 hour show cost $10.00. Meals cost about $5.00-$10.00. Cashmere…..well, that’s a different story. It’s cheaper here than in the US, but it still can be a little pricey.

The local doctors are already looking forward to IVUmed’s next visit.


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Thursday – Firing on all cylinders

Hospital Number One, Day 5 in Mongolia.

I have been working closely with Dr. Hamilton. His experience in endourology has served as a great resource for me as well as the local doctors. We have been performing kidney stone surgery this week in attempts to help improve the techniques of local surgeons. Early in the week we struggled with a few cases and realized the technology available was the problem. We have sicne made adjustments and emphasized the need to make the best use of resources available. Today we felt our surgical cases were performed with efficiency and success. We are excited at the vast differences from Monday to today. We hope that our few days in teaching will allow many years improved patient care.

Today, we also presented scopes donated by the Storz endoscope company to the local doctors. They were most grateful as the last donated scopes were showing their age. The local doctors are compassionate and skilled surgeons and have been adaptable to the equipment available to them. With modern equipment, they have the ability to provide patients with minimally invasive procedures with great surgical prowness.

I find the mongolian people to be friendly and happy people. The local doctors and nurses, the patients, and our translator have all been great hosts. We even have found time in our busy day to laugh, share stories and culture, and even family pictures with the local people.

The team at the Pediatric hospital also had a productive day. The patients’ families have been most gracious and shower the team daily with praise and gifts. It is touching to see such display of gratitude. Late in the day we met the team and headed to the local department store for souvenier shopping. We then headed back to the hotel and met for dinner at the Japanese restaurant in our hotel. Nori, our pediatric anesthesiologist, showed us a great time and introduced us to his favorite cuisine. We did have to say goodbye to one of our wonderful nurses. She had an unexpected family matter and had to rush home. We are sorry to see her leave us early but have shared some great times. All in all another great day in Mongolia.


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A very long day…..

Ellen Thorp, trip secretary here. Today was a long and wonderful day. The first surgery at the pediatric hospital began at 8:am and the last surgery ended at 7:30. Dr. DeVries is amazing to watch. Her last case was four hours and she remained highly focused in spite of the hour or fatigue. We all stand in awe of her abilities, including the Mongolian staff. We are all a little more comfortable with each other as the days go by. Today we showed them pictures from home and the Mongolians were really interested and curious. They spent a lot of time studying the map that Janet Vogt (nurse) brought, asking where we were born, where we live now and how long it takes to get from city to city. We have a terrific interpreter, Zaya, but we are also finding ways to communicate without words.

Dr. DeVries completed five surgeries today. One of the surgeries was slightly delayed when the local folks plugged in our Bovie machine and it started to smoke…a lot! The cameras whipped out to document the event as if we were at Disneyland. Anyone want to donate a new machine???

Our day at the Maternal and Pediatric Hospital ended in a very touching manner. At the end of our clinic day (Sunday) there was a dad who had waited in the hallway and wanted to carry our bags down the three flights of stairs for us. His little boy ended up being our first case yesterday. We remembered the child well because he was very upset and crying before he was put under. The child did very well. I had the pleasure of seeing him this afternoon when a few of us handed out crayons, coloring books and Beanie Babies (all donated). Hours later the father and mother met us as we were leaving the hospital. We were pretty tired but our spirits and our hearts were lifted when they approached us with flowers, chocolates and Mongolian dolls. Then the dad insisted on carrying our bags out again. I don’t think we’ll ever forget them.

Hospital No. 1 had a visit from the new Minister of Health today and that slowed things down a bit. They completed three surgeries, one of them a five hour kidney stone procedure. The doctors at that hospital speak more English than at the Pediatric hospital so it’s easier for them to form personal relationships. The Hospital No 1 staff took all of us out to dinner at a Mongolian restaurant. One of our members ordered horse ribs (they were out). Dr. Nori Kuratani order a soup that had many different organs in it; we renamed it “Donor Soup”. The evening was lovely including a musical performance by one of their doctors and another by our own Dr. Blake Hamilton.

We are all looking forward to tomorrow!


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Day 2

Today the teams separated to their designated hospitals. At the pediatric hospital Dr. deVries did 4 successful surgeries and 4 consults, ending the day around 6pm. Children were each given a handmade donated blanket for warmth after surgery. The local nurses were very greatful. Dr. Hamilton did 4 surgeries and 3 consults ending the day after 7pm. We have identified a great need for basic equipment maintanance and troubleshooting. By the second half of the day we finally procured a light source that enabled the surgeon to actually see what he was doing thereby reducing the need for exposurre to x-rays. We have lovely and gracious interpreters for each site making life simply wonderful. Our patients here are very stoic and forgiving of the amount of time they must wait for their procedures. The number 1 hospital was visited this morning by the new Minsiter of Health, causing much delay in the start of our surgery schedule. Hopefully this new Minister can bring many needed improvements to the Mongolian health care system.

Nurse Pam


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Monday – day one of surgery

The entire team spent the day at Hospital No. 1. We were greeted by the Director, Dr. Sonin Sodov. He gave us an overview of the hospital history as well as some background information regarding medical availability in Mongolia. Hospital No. 1 opened in 1925. It is the largest hospital in Mongolia. There are 21 provinces and each has a general hospital with about 200 beds. The villages have hospitals with 10-15 beds. According to Dr. Sodov there is a great shortage of doctors in rural areas but a surplus in the capital, Ulaanbaatar. There is also a shortage of nurses so the doctors often do nurse’s work. He was very kind and expressed gratitude for IVUmed’s visit and acknowledged the power of volunteerism.

Drs. DeVries, Hamilton and Reddy performed a total of seven surgeries today. The sanitation conditions are very different from those in the US. For example, there are many items used during surgery that are thrown out in the US but reused in Mongolia. The autoclave machine was an antique according to one of the nurses. It was covered with rust and had an open lid. It was more like a bubbling pot than an autoclave.

Patients in Mongolia are responsible for carrying their records with them. I even witnessed a patient holding onto a disposibile camera on her way into surgery, perhaps with the hope that anything that needed to be in her record would be photographed. The families take a lot of responsibility for the patient’s care and nutrition. I guess they can’t complain about hospital food with that being the case!

Tomorrow we will split up in to two teams: one will go to Hospital No. 1, the other to the pediatric hospital. There is an ambitious case load and it seems the local doctors would like to add even more. IVUmed is so highly regarded here that the local physicians really want to maximize our staff’s time. Although our hectic schedule doesn’t leave much time for rest it is invigorating to think of the positive results the IVUmed team is accomplishing.

Ellen Thorp, Trip Secretary


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Clinic Day – Sept 21, Sunday

What an incredible day it was!

Our morning was spent at Hospital #1, the afternoon at the Maternal and Child Hospital. We saw a total of 60 patients with ages ranging from 2 months to 84 years old. The doctors did an incredible job of assessing the cases and the patients just kept coming. There is so much need. It is very humbling to watch the IVUmed doctors and nurses work — they clearly know what they are up against. It would be easy to become frustrated quickly but instead they work through the situations dealing with what is and isn’t possible given the equipment and after care available.

It was very touching to witness the children — they were fearful but stoic. Their cases range from hypospadias to possible bladder reconstruction. An effort is always made to select cases that will provide a teaching opportunity as well as help the patient’s quality of life. The local doctors show so much concern and tenderness towards their patients; it is heartening to know that in addition to helping patients they will also be learning how to perform the surgeries once IVUmed is gone.

We are still awaiting the arrival of Dr. Nori Kuritani who was detained by a typhoon that hit Tokyo. Once he is here our team will be complete. A good night’s sleep is much needed by all!

Ellen Thorp, Trip Secretary


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Pre-trip entry, Mongolia

September 12, 2008

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Submitted by Ellen Thorp, Trip Secretary

Re: Mongolia trip, September 18-28, 2008

When I went to bed last night I thought: “wow!” this time Thursday we will be on our way to Mongolia! Then, when I awoke this morning my first thought was: “wow, we’ll still be on our way to Mongolia!”. When I go to sleep tonight, I might think…..well….you get the picture!

My husband Edd and I are very honored to be trip secretaries for this IVUmed mission to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia from September 18-28. We live in SLC so we have had the benefit of being able to visit the office regularly and get wonderful training from Josh. It was a pleasure meeting our team members via conference call, but we are really looking forward to getting to know them and work with them. As non-medical people (my husband is a retired commercial pilot; I’m a retired marketing/sales executive) we are admittedly a little intimidated by the equipment, supplies and medical terms. Imagine our surprise when we were told we needed to bring scrubs and a lab coat. We never dreamed we might be in an operating room….and still be awake!

The team will be doing two workshops: one is pediatric and the other is for adults. The team members are: Blake Hamilton, MD (Salt Lake City), Norifumi Kuratani, MD (Japan), Sujith Reddy, MD (New Orleans), Janet Vogt , RN (Missouri), & Pamela St. Louis, RN (Vermont). We are privileged to have Catherine DeVries, founder of IVUmed, as our esteemed team leader.

We’re excited to be bringing the pediatric patients some gifts (all donated). They will have coloring books and crayons to play with as well as hard candy while in clinic. And, when they wake up from surgery they will have a new fleece blanket and a soft toy to cuddle.

Well, we’ve read our guidebooks and packed our bags. Here’s to a productive and wonderful IVUmed adventure!


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