Surgery and Service Overseas

Hockaday junior returns to Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

After visiting the Domin­ican Republic twice, junior Anna Buford is once again packing her bags and heading for Santo Do­mingo to log more time in the operating room.

Buford, an aspiring orthopedic surgeon, will be pulling on scrubs and tying her hair back this spring break, from March 8 to March 15, to observe more surgeries at a free clinic.

“I’m so excited to go back,” she said. “It’s my favorite place to be because I feel like I am working for something I really believe in.”

Nearly five years after asking Dr. John Barrington, an orthopedic sur­geon and a close family friend of the Bufords, about any opportunities to be exposed to in the surgical world, Buford received a call mid-sophomore year. Barrington offered Buford the op­portunity to accompany him on his trip to Santo Domingo, where he would be performing surgeries at a free clinic.

A 15-year-old at the time, Buford would have had to wait another year before she could scrub into an operat­ing room in the state of Texas. In con­trast, anyone above the age of 12 is al­lowed to enter operating rooms in the Dominican Republic, so she pleaded with her parents for nearly a year to accept this rare opportunity. Finally, on the condition that she would be ac­companied by her father, she was giv­en the approval to start packing.

Anna’s father, Barry Buford, said Anna was 12 years old when she began to express her interest in surgery.

“We felt like the medical mission for­mat would satisfy her curiosity about her ability to be up close participating in a surgery,” he said. “And at the same time, [she would be] help[ing] others in the hospital and at the local school.”

Unable to visualize where he would be sending his 15-year-old daughter, however, Barry decided it would be in his best interests to join Anna.

For just four days during April of Anna’s sophomore year, the Buford pair would be far away from Texas.

“I was really, really nervous,” Anna said, looking back on the first time she visited the Dominican Republic. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

Among the unforeseeable aspects of her trip was the pungent odor of skin that was cauterized or sealed to­gether with heat—“I refused to pass out!” she said.

As Anna reminisced of her memo­ries in surgery from her previous trips, she smiled and said, “I can’t wait to go back.”

Standing in on many of Dr. Bar­rington’s hip replacements in Santo Domingo, Anna gained insight into the field of orthopedics. It was after she embarked on her first trip to the Caribbean that she had decided she would like to attend medical school and later specialize in orthopedic sur­gery. Months later, in October of her junior year, Anna boarded a plane to head back to the Dominican Republic with a full itinerary.

After doing homework at 5 a.m. and working in the clinic from 8 a.m. to noon, Buford had enough time on her hands to pursue community service opportunities. From noon to 3 p.m., she either painted at the clinic or went to the local school to play with and teach English to the children.

Through Anna’s two trips to Santo Domingo, close family friend Dr. Bar­rington has witnessed a change in her.“Since I came to know her fam­ily about 7 years ago, Anna has always been very bright,” he said, “[but] on the mission trips, I have seen Anna be­come more confident, more outgoing and really just more visionary.”

On her upcoming trip to the Do­minican Republic, she will be spend­ing an entire homework-free week in the country. With more time to observe surgeries and socialize with children, Anna will also find time to visit the beach, attend church service and partake in a baseball game with the locals.

– Hufsa Husain, Staff Writer