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My Reflections on Phomn Penh Mission Trip

I recently went on an overseas medical volunteer trip to Phomn Penh. It was a trip co-organised by doctors, dentists, and NUS medical and dental students – titled Project Sabai. The project has been running for a few years and has successfully established annual medical reach outs to several areas of need in Cambodia. 


Over the course of a week, we journeyed to different areas of need and provided free health care to the locals. Triage and drug dispensing services were managed by the NUS medical students, and consults were made possible with the aid of an interpreter – usually a local Cambodian medical student volunteer.


Diversity was the biggest resource we had in our group - including GPs, ENT, general surgery, A&E, ENT, internal medicine and radiology residents. Although resources were limited, we worked together as a team and tapped on each other’s subspecialty expertise when approaching complex cases. One of our group members brought along a portable ultrasound machine, which facilitated the diagnosis of a triple abdominal aneurysm and a suspicious thyroid lesion. Another group member promptly diagnosed acute coronary syndrome in a middle age man who presented with shortness of breath and diaphoresis. The patient was urgently transferred to the nearest cardiology unit for acute management.


The trip was heartwarming on multiple levels. Most of all, it served as a reminder of the importance of an integrated team approach to healthcare. With advances in medical technology and sub-specialisation, the issue of fragmentation in health care is real.   We are blessed to be living in a country with first-world medical technology and easily accessible health care. As clinicians, we should remind ourselves of the importance of fostering integrated patient care coordination.  After all, the biggest victim of fragmentation is the patient.