By Anjana Kundu, MBBS, MD
Dayton Children's Hospital
This January marked 10 years of my volunteer work in India. My involvement with volunteer work isn’t something unique, there are thousands of healthcare providers that have and continue to donate their valuable time and services to areas of need around the globe. I was triggered to share the story of our work in India by introspection, as I found myself among a panel of 27 international healthcare providers from eight different countries, celebrating the milestones accomplished in the 10 years. I was invited to share my perspective as one of the “co-founders” of the International Bladder Exstrophy Consortium. This work was sparked by a simple conversation among colleagues, who set out to explore how they could provide better care for children born with bladder exstrophy in India.
Mind you, pediatric urology expertise did not exist in India as it’s not recognized as a separate specialty, nor is pediatric anesthesiology and pain management, for that matter. Given the complexity and extensive nature of the surgery, and the need for unique perioperative care, I was invited to join as I worked closely with one of the world-renowned experts in this field. With the goal and commitment to return annually to care for these children, we began our work with a dedicated local pediatric general surgeon at a very impoverished, resource limited, government funded, but large academic hospital in western India that served a population of several surrounding states. Little did we know that in 10 years’ time what started as a team of three people from two countries, serving a few patients at this hospital, would evolve into a large team consisting of providers, trainers and observers from all over the world, including all over Asia, Africa, Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Our work has grown to become a very sought after place for patients, from not only all over India but also from many parts of the world to come for their bladder exstrophy care. This collaboration has received the status and recognition from the American Urological Association, as an example of a sustainable international collaboration for standard of care.
Reflecting on this made me think of the similarities between the Society for Pediatric Pain Medicine and our consortium. It excites me to think about the possibilities that exist. Like the consortium, SPPM started with a conversation initiated by a few visionaries like Drs. Corrie Anderson, Sabine Kost-Byerly, Rita Agarwal to name a few and it evolved into an organized Society fueled by the commitment and hard work of many more who joined forces. Even in its brief six years’ history, it has gained the support of its 851 members. This has been possible, in both cases, because of a few critical elements, which form the foundations of any successful project. These elements include:
In both cases the vision is to continually advance the quality of care we provide for our patients and families. Keeping the focus on the best possible care of our patients automatically fuels our actions whether we are talking about clinical care, research, education or advocacy work. This is reflected well in the high quality educational content provided through the annual meeting, the content of the newsletter, case of the month on the website, social media posts and many more educational resources available to our members. The encouragement, recognition and support through the research committee aides the high quality research in pediatric pain medicine.
The commitment of their valuable, time, resources, contributions, ideas and efforts from the founding leaders, the board of directors and members at large, has been pivotal in the growth of SPPM and will remain critical for future growth as well. No contribution is trivial and I strongly urge everyone to commit to contributing in whatever way you can to the overall vision of improving the quality of care and life of our patients. It’s only when each one of us plays our part that the picture, the vision will be complete.
Communities are created when people with similar ideas, goals and needs and vision come together. For any community to thrive, its members ensure that those ideas, goals and needs and vision continue to advance. As I see SPPM as a community of healthcare providers who share the desire to enhance and improve pediatric pain medicine, learn from each other, support and share with each other. As members of this community, I urge everyone to ensure the health its growth. Moreover, research has shown a direct correlation between good health and longevity and how close-knit a community is. I invite everyone to engage those with similar ideas, goals, vision and needs to join in and bring our efforts in alignment. There’s strength in numbers and a strong community can achieve its goals much more readily.
As in a group or community, in any Society its strength comes from recognition of various skillsets, expertise, experience and from sharing these in an unrestricted platform through visionary and able mentorship. Especially relevant in medicine, we are constant learners and educators. Keeping this open mindset of learning from and sharing your skills with each other regardless of years of training, stature or ranks, makes us much more robust as leaders. None of us ever starts out as an expert in everything and to be honest, I’m not sure if that should be anyone’s goal. More realistically speaking, we should be aiming at bringing our best to the table, be open to improvement and freely share our skills to ensure we function efficiently and effectively to achieve our greater vision and goal as the community. This has been never truer that today’s high tech environment, where the millennials have a lot to share and teach. Knowledge sharing is at the core of our Society and I look to everyone to foster this core value.
Recognizing and Creating Opportunities
Last but not the least, just as we keep ourselves open to knowledge sharing, we also need to be astute in recognizing and creating opportunities for growth, personally as well as professionally. A challenging case that you face in isolation at your institution can become a fantastic opportunity for shared learning, tapping into expertise of those around the country and globe. A research idea, or your clinical database within your department or division, with limited numbers can easily be transformed into a multicenter project - an outcomes, safety and quality research mecca for everyone involved, all the while fulfilling the greater vision of improved care for our children affected by pain.
This edition of the newsletter is replete with articles that highlight the opportunities for all of us to put these elements into practice. Through our personal attendance at the SPPM 5th Annual Meeting, we can experience the phenomenal scientific and educational program, network with each other, and learn about the opportunities to enhance our skills through the fellowship training opportunities.
The foundation of SPPM built on the bedrock of these core values and elements highlighted above, will be further bolstered by our new initiative, The SPPM Research and Education Fund. The purpose of this fund is to support the activities that enhance and advance the educational and research endeavors. The Fund will be utilized to support speakers, educational efforts, research and other projects perceived to be critical to the mission of the Society and benefit of its members. We have annual pledges from the current officers and board members, as well as our past presidents and former board members.
Any amount of support, large or small, will be accepted and I certainly hope that you will support this worthy cause at ANY level. Our collective support to advance this worthy cause in pediatric pain medicine is critical for the future of our children affected by pain. I look forward to your contributions and commitment to the growth of your community, SPPM, and its vision.Hope to see you all in person in Phoenix, AZ for the SPPM 5th Annual Meeting on March 22!