Premier Urologist’s Surgical Medical Mission Great Success

Courtesy of Global Surgical Expedition

In April, we spoke to Dr. Neil J. Kocher, a distinguished fellowship-trained urologist in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPM-RS), as he prepared for his inaugural medical mission to Belize with the Global Surgical Expedition. Dr. Kocher has since embarked on and returned from the mission, along with the other providers on his team.

The group consisted of physicians with complementary skills and specialties, such as urologic oncology and general urology, with the unified goal to create a team that can travel and provide specialized urologic surgical care around the world for many years to come.

Dr. Kocher says his first surgical mission was a great success and that he and his colleagues learned a great deal while in Belize.

“I walked away with my heart full,” Dr. Kocher said. “Being able to contribute and make a positive impact was really quite something.”

The journey to Corozal, Belize was relatively smooth, even with all of the medical equipment Dr. Kocher and his team were traveling with. The first couple of days were spent setting up and making sure everything worked properly. This proved to be crucial as there was a piece of equipment that wasn’t up to par in the clinic they were working out of, so a small team had to be sent to retrieve a replacement in a village an hour away.

“It takes a lot of coordination,” he said. “Being through something like this…improved my appreciation for all of the support that goes into getting a patient in and out of an operating room.”

Once everything was in place, the surgical team welcomed around 50 patients into the clinic over the course of the week. Dr. Kocher oversaw a dozen urogynecologic cases, performing multiple surgeries using each patient’s own tissue to help correct conditions like prolapse and stress urinary incontinence.

Courtesy of Global Surgical Expedition
All photos courtesy of Global Surgical Expedition

One night, the power went out in the northern part of the country, and there were only a couple restaurants in town that had generators to keep the lights on. Dr. Kocher and the surgical team ended up at one of those restaurants where he was quickly flagged down by a family who recognized him from earlier in the day.

The family talked with Dr. Kocher at length, wanting to express their gratitude and appreciation for the work he and his colleagues were doing.

“Basically, they were just so incredibly happy that [surgery] was able to be done for their family member for a condition that she had been dealing with for years,” Dr. Kocher said. “A less than two hour surgery completely fixed and resolved it…It was really quite awesome to be able to offer that.”

The positive impacts of the surgical mission went beyond the patients and their families. At a separate site nearby, surgeons performing laparoscopic gallbladder removals, or cholecystectomy, trained and proctored a local general surgeon to be able to continue doing those procedures after the mission group left.

“That was a big step forward for this Global Surgical Expedition: expanding on local resources, local providers and being able to provide them with skills that they can continue doing in a sustainable manner,” Dr. Kocher said.

All photos courtesy of Global Surgical Expedition
All photos courtesy of Global Surgical Expedition

The lessons that Dr. Kocher and his team learned will help inform how they approach their next mission back to the area. Toward the end of the time in the clinics, they took inventory of the supplies they had left. Even before that happened, Dr. Kocher says he had made a mental note to bring more equipment for future trips.

“It’s amazing how quickly you can go through supplies,” he said. “It makes you mindful when coming back to be more conservative with what you use and to really not take for granted how plentiful the medical supplies are here in the States.”

Working through challenges with dwindling supplies and fewer readily available resources helped Dr. Kocher to grow personally and professionally. His biggest advice for other providers who are considering volunteering for a medical mission? Be flexible.

“I think it’s really important to have an open mind,” he said. “You’ll have a plan, but plans change. You have to be willing to go with the flow.”

In addition to the invaluable moral support from his patients and Premier Medical Group, Dr. Kocher says he’s especially grateful for people’s generous financial contributions.

“There’s an incredible need beyond our community, and there aren’t a lot of [surgical medical mission] programs out there,” he said. “It’s all about raising awareness and being able to fund these trips to provide this care.”

Even the smallest dollar amount can make a big difference, Dr. Kocher says. For anyone interested in learning more about supporting the Global Surgical Expedition, you can visit their website to donate.

During the final days of the mission, the providers spent a day and a half exploring, unwinding, and debriefing on nearby San Pedro island. For Dr. Kocher, it was a fantastic end to what felt like a very successful expedition. As he and his colleagues reflected on the experience, they talked about their collective excitement to return to continue helping more communities. 

“The future is definitely bright with regards to us being able to get out there, help more people, do great surgery, and do great things for people who really need and deserve it.” Dr. Kocher said.

If you wish to learn more about the Global Surgical Expedition or donate to its cause, please visit Premier Medical Group is proud to support Dr. Kocher on this and future missions.

If you are experiencing any of the conditions discussed above, please contact Premier Urology at 845.437.5000 to make an appointment at any of our four convenient locations (Poughkeepsie, Kingston, New Windsor, Fishkill).