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Respiratory Therapy Alum Shares Knowledge Across the Globe

RT alumni, Harrison Smith, recently embarked on a medical mission trip to the Republic of Georgia where he and two other colleagues shared their knowledge of Respiratory Therapy with local medical professionals. Smith graduated from the RT program in 2011, and has since been employed by MU Healthcare as a critical care transport team member. This August he will begin the 27-month long physician assistant program at Stephens College, with later plans to apply for a Neonatal ICU fellowship out east.

During the trip, Smith had several different responsibilities. He spoke with the Minister of Health (similar to America’s surgeons general) about the creation of a dedicated Neonatal/Pediatric transport service for Georgia, met with the dean of the Tbilisi Medical School to discuss the possibility of an RT program, and helped instruct the five Neonatal Resuscitation Program certification classes. “I love teaching and feel it is our duty as medical professionals to share our knowledge with as many people as we can,” said Harrison.

Smith explained the most impactful day was spent in one of the NICUs where he spoke to doctors and junior doctors about ventilator theory, extubation techniques, suctioning procedures, and high frequency oscillation theory. Smith noted, “They seemed very eager to learn and wrote down much of what we advised them on.”

In reflecting on the potential impact of this trip and similar ones, Harrison explains, “In today’s complex world of medicine, there is so much to learn and master. No one person can know it all, and in developing countries, they are in need of those willing to teach their eager medical staff.  Our willingness to share knowledge and experiences can save lives and the teaching we bring can directly and immediately change the care doctors provide. This trip was eye opening to the medicine that is practiced outside of the US; it is full of eager doctors willing to learn, but they are limited by those willing to teach. It’s expensive to travel, and even more expensive to gather funds to pay for education.”

Smith sees himself returning to Georgia, and other places, once his schooling is complete, noting that his first trip just “scratched the surface” of what can be accomplished. As far as starting an RT program in Georgia, Smith will need help in continuing that endeavor. He says, “I’ll be pretty busy for the next few years with school, so if there is anyone interested in helping, it would be such a rewarding experience.”