Last May, Dr. Jason Cundiff led a team of eight medical students and nurses to a rural, impoverished village in South Sudan, where they performed surgery on about 50 people in eight days.
Now, he’s going back, but adding a few twists this time around.
Cundiff, a surgeon with Yakima Surgical Associates, will be taking six medical students, including one who’s specializing in ophthalmology, two nurses and a scrub tech back to Morobo County.
“We’re going to take a look at some of the patients we operated on last time and see how they’re doing,” he said.
He’ll be performing general surgery, assisted by the students and nurses, focusing on fixing hernias and removing tumors.
Before they even arrive in South Sudan, Cundiff and several members of the team will be stopping to climb Mount Kenya, a 17,000-foot nontechnical climb that rises from the lowland forest northeast of Nairobi. It’s the second-highest mountain in Africa after Kilamanjaro, and the team is using it as a fundraiser, asking people to sponsor team members.
The trip is through Cundiff’s nonprofit, Pacific Northwest Surgical Outreach. Since the last venture to South Sudan, Cundiff has led similar surgical trips to Haiti and Guatemala and he plans to return to Guatemala in June. He teaches at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences and likes offering the trips to students as opportunities to experience a very different type of medical practice than they’re used to.
Last year’s trip afforded them a few lessons about what to bring and what to expect this year, he said.
“We learned that we need to get out to the more remote outposts and villages sooner so that we can actually screen the best operative candidates,” he said, rather than sifting through the hundreds of people who last year camped out around the medical compound.
The team is also planning to be more “streamlined,” bringing only what’s needed in the way of medical equipment and supplies, and will try to be more prepared for the unexpected: “Crazy things — like the goat chewing on the power cord for the generator — happen,” Cundiff said.
The team is holding a fundraiser Monday at Carousel restaurant, where Cundiff will show a 12-minute documentary about the last trip to Guatemala.
There will be live music, French appetizers, wine donated by local wineries and a presentation about the trip to South Sudan. The event starts at 5:30 p.m.