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Hospital physician makes medical mission trips to Grenada

New Britain [January 22 2013] - There is no gynecologic oncology specialist in Grenada, all the more reason Jonathan Cosin, M.D., has made two medical mission trips to this small country every year since 2006. That’s about 100 surgeries, at least 350 outpatient visits and many grateful patients.

“Once I started doing it, it was really hard to stop,” says Cosin, a Hospital of Central Connecticut gynecologic oncologist who joined HOCC in 2012 and specializes in cancers and tumors related to gynecology, including ovarian, endometrial and cervical cancers.

Cosin is not affiliated with any mission-based organization and volunteers his time and even pays his way for these trips to St. George’s Hospital in St. George’s, Grenada. His latest visit was in November.

“To be able to bring this kind of care – and it’s not like the same level of care obviously they would get here – but to get this kind of expertise they wouldn’t get in other places, it’s a great thing to do. The patients are just amazing, amazingly grateful, and that obviously keeps me going back.”

His penchant for medical mission work began in 2005 while practicing in Washington, D.C. A physician colleague asked him to go on a medical mission trip with her to the Philippines for a week.

He wanted to continue doing medical mission work and an oncology nurse suggested he travel to her home country of Grenada where he says there is no gynecologic oncologist. While the hospital has oncologists and gynecologists, treatment options are limited, notes Cosin. He travels to the capital, St. George’s, every six months. He arrives on a Friday and sees about 30 patients in the clinic on Saturday and then starting Monday operates over the next several days before returning home the next Saturday. During his last April visit Cosin performed 16 surgeries over five days. Two of the 16 trips Cosin has taken were between those regularly scheduled and were two-day trips for emergency cases.

On each trip Cosin also brings an obstetrics/gynecology resident. Erin Ashton, M.D., an obstetrics/gynecology resident, went on this latest mission, one of many medical mission trips she has made since her freshman year in college. Part of the University of Connecticut Integrated Residency program, Ashton learned about Cosin’s upcoming visit during her oncology rotation at HOCC. This one was different, she says, since it focused on gynecologic oncology. “It’s very specialized surgery that the patient can’t otherwise receive in Grenada because there’s no one trained in radical hysterectomies and advanced cancer cases,” she says.

Ashton enjoys providing care where there is an increased need and says patients are quite grateful for the care received. Ashton has also been on mission trips to Peru, Honduras, Belize, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Zambia and most recently, Mexico. “I just have an interest in global health outreach and medical mission trips. It’s something that I want to do lifelong.”

In Grenada, Ashton and Cosin saw many patients with advanced cervical cancer, which, unlike the U.S., says Ashton, does not have screening protocol to detect the disease at an early stage. Cosin says endometrial cancer is also common.

With limited resources in Grenada, Cosin brings discarded medical supplies, which for his latest visit, included supplies from HOCC.

Working in a country like Grenada has also taught Cosin patience and flexibility. “When you have limited resources, you learn to make do and to understand what’s really important,” he says. “I think it’s made me a better surgeon and a better person.”

Contact: Kimberly Gensicki, 860-224-5900, X6507















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