Mongolia 2018 Reflection: Against the Status Quo (Conlan Pierce)

As a medical student and aspiring surgeon, participation in the 2018 M2H Mongolia mission was invaluable. My reasons for joining the mission were to gain clinical medical experience, learn about other cultures, and to give back. These expectations were satisfied and exceeded during the two-week adventure.

The nightly grand rounds and tutorials alone were enough to make the mission worthwhile. During these sessions, each participant shared a highlight of his or her day, which essentially multiplied the clinical educational value of the mission. As teaching points emerged, they were met with thorough discussion from the group. This allowed me to absorb volumes of information as well as reinforce my previous medical knowledge through teaching. These brief conferences took place after dinner in a very relaxed setting.

By learning the differences among foreign cultures, I believe we are able to further understand what makes us alike as humans. Immersion in the Mongolian lifestyle allowed me to better connect with patients in the clinical setting throughout the mission. After screening patients in the clinics, I have become more familiar with disease presentations, such as Hepatitis B and C, that are more prevalent in Mongolia than in the US. This experience will have a lasting impact on my ability as a physician to better serve my patients.

An unexpected blessing of this mission was getting to know all of my fellow volunteers. The team consisted of like-minded individuals of all ages and backgrounds, both foreign and local to Mongolia. Everyone contributed as we learned from each other and worked together to make the best of every situation. Their stories and perspectives have certainly contributed to my personal and professional development.

Surgery is a field that requires immense sacrifice and responsibility. My mentors have taught me that the hardship is part of what makes the career so fulfilling. The physicians who can work endless hours without fatigue or frustration seem to have one thing in common; they work for a purpose that they believe in. In Mongolia, Dr. Geelhoed embodied this example of a passionate physician as he led the group in patient care and education. I am lucky to have worked alongside not only Dr. Geelhoed but also five other amazing surgeons who have further inspired me to pursue this vocation. The unique career path of Dr. Geelhoed is a testimony that surgeons need not obey the status quo in order to have a successful and fulfilling career. Mission to Heal is a gateway for students and doctors to divert from the conventional route in medicine.

I am extremely grateful to have been part of the mission. I truly believe that our efforts were a step in the right direction for the globalization and advancement of health care in Mongolia. The medical and surgical educational content was as substantial as any other two-week period of medical school for me. Dr. Geelhoed, the volunteers, and the patients of Mongolia have widened my perspective, which will ultimately allow me to become a more refined physician and to better create my future. I plan to participate in another mission next year and will recommend that my friends and colleagues do as well.