“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Proverb
About a year ago, Dr. Cynthia Reyes joined Nemours Children’s Hospital as the Division Chief of Pediatric Surgery and Surgical Director of Quality. Since joining the team, she’s been helping to expand the pediatric surgery program and develop a surgery quality program. Dr. Reyes holds the honor of being the first Hispanic female trained in pediatric surgery in the U.S.
Along with Dr. Reyes years of experience and success in pediatric surgery, she also brings a unique perspective to the Nemours community. For more than 20 years, she has been an active member of the Pacific Association of Pediatric Surgeons (PAPS), which supports the growth of pediatric surgery around the world, with a focus on the countries of the Pacific Rim.
Formed 50 years ago by a small group of surgeons from the U.S., Japan, China, Australia, and Canada, PAPS’s mission is to help pediatric surgeons in developing countries, while delivering a message of global communication and inclusivity within the pediatric surgery community. Today, PAPS has blossomed to a membership of 530 surgeons residing in 23 countries.
Pacific Association of Pediatric Surgeons serves two key functions:
- Every year, PAPS hosts a five-day meeting where members exchange information and insight about the latest pediatric surgical research and results, new procedures and techniques, patient clinical management, and the opportunity for networking and engaging discussion. Dr. Reyes will be a featured speaker at this year’s meeting which will be held in Sapporo, Japan in May.
- The organization is a conduit of communication between pediatric surgeons in developing countries around the Pacific Rim. To help PAPS succeed in this, the Global Alliance Program (GAP), was established to expose young pediatric surgeons in developing countries to the current science and art of pediatric surgery. GAP actively engages these young surgeons, providing a unique opportunity of scientific exchange and mentorship.
GAP is funded by members of PAPS, and each year a GAP fellow is selected to attend the annual PAPS meeting. Additionally, the GAP fellow is invited to stay an additional week for an externship at the children’s hospital in the community hosting the conference. Dr. Reyes explains the experience of these visiting pediatric surgeons, “Several applicants get nominated each year, and PAPS chooses one or two. The fellows attend the meeting, but then also spend a week shadowing us in the OR, attending rounds, and visiting the clinic to learn new skills on the way we practice pediatric surgery.”
The sponsorship for this unique experience is provided by a combination of funds from the Scinto Foundation and money raised by the PAPS membership. Over the years, there have been 30 GAP fellows who have had the privilege of this experience. Both the fellows and the hosting surgeons have found the externship to be incredibly valuable.
“I think the relationship that develops between the GAP fellow and the pediatric surgeons in the hosting children’s hospital is the most important benefit of what is done by the program,” says Dr. Reyes. The host surgeons usually stay in contact with the fellows after the externship, having developed a strong bond. Many go to visit the GAP fellow’s home country. Some surgeons have done training programs in these places, and oftentimes serve as resources for questions in tough cases.
Dr. Reyes has served for 10 years as President of GAP
“It is such exciting work,” she says of her time in the role and her continuing involvement with PAPS. “I meet pediatric surgeons from all over the world who work in very challenging conditions. Many of these surgeons don’t have access to fluids. Some of them have a limited supply of sterile gloves, so they need to re-wash them. In some cases, they have to re-use needles (sterilizing them, of course). They just don’t have access to the resources that we have, the material resources.”
When she first became involved with PAPS, the organization focused on providing those material resources. But over the years, Dr. Reyes and the organization came to realize that it was even more important to provide support in the area of human resources.
Dr. Reyes explains, “What’s even harder for pediatric surgeons in developing countries is that they don’t have the access to human resources. They don’t have trained ICU nurses, respiratory therapists to run ventilators, etc. So our emphasis has changed from sending multiple cartons of IV fluids to educating their staff to take care of sicker kids.” Dr. Reyes compares it to the proverb: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
PAPS has remained faithful to its dream of diversity, inclusivity, and social responsibility. The organization continues to support the growth of pediatric surgery around the world. And Dr. Reyes hopes to have Orlando host an upcoming annual conference, with Nemours Children’s Hospital as the backdrop for the GAP fellow externship. “I’m proud of this work,” says Dr. Reyes. “PAPS members and the GAP fellows really embrace one another. We embrace our differences: not only our cultural differences, but in the way we practice. It benefits the communities we live in, as well as the communities we serve.”