Three Teams, Many Firsts

By Betsy Station

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When three Solidarity Bridge mission teams head to Bolivia on March 9, listen for a cosmic drum roll. Expectation is in the air as each of the teams take part in important “firsts,” either for Solidarity Bridge, for our partners, or for patients in need of specialized surgical care.

For the first time in our history, Solidarity Bridge is sending an oncological surgery mission team to Bolivia’s most important public cancer hospital, where they will focus exclusively on cancer surgery. Our host, the Instituto Oncológico del Oriente Boliviano, is located in Santa Cruz but offers comprehensive cancer care to patients from around the country. A 10-person team—including Dr. Malcolm Bilimoria, Dr. John Gregory, and other  veteran missioners—will spend a week providing surgeries for
low-income patients.

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At the same time, a general surgery mission team will travel to Cochabamba for a weeklong partnership at Viedma Hospital, with a special emphasis on colon surgeries for Chagas patients. This will be the ninth mission trip for Dr. Gay Garrett, the recipient of our 2018 Solidarity Award—but it will be the first time the team uses the new laparoscopic surgery tower at Viedma Hospital, donated through a Rotary Club project brokered by Solidarity Bridge and Puente de Solidaridad.

In the coming weeks, we will share more about the global collaboration that brought this vital piece of medical equipment to its new home, making minimally invasive surgery available to more patients who need it.


Also during this remarkable week, our founder Juan Lorenzo Hinojosa and our senior director of medical programs Lindsay Doucette lead a neurosurgery mission team to Cochabamba. At the city’s Belga Hospital, the team will celebrate the opening of a center dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy—the first of its kind in Bolivia. Solidarity Bridge helped facilitate the donation of two EEG machines for the center from Chicago’s Rush Hospital. We also connected Bolivian technicians with their counterparts in the US to get the machines, used to diagnose epilepsy, up and running. 

On March 14, the neurosurgery team will travel onward to Paraguay to offer a two-day course on endoscopic transnasal surgery, a less invasive procedure used to remove pituitary tumors. Solidarity Bridge provided the inaugural training for this technique in Bolivia in 2016, but this is the first time they will offer the course to surgeons in Paraguay, hosted by Itauguá National Hospital outside Asunción.   

All three teams will carry urgently needed medical supplies with them on mission—from medications to endoscopic surgery tools to other cutting-edge technology. Watch this space for updates on this important work to heal, train, and equip. May we have many more “firsts” to celebrate!

Betsy Station is a communications and development associate at Solidarity Bridge.