PMBA course leads to live-saving surgery

Dr. RIz Aslam

PMBA student Dr. Rizwan Aslam (second from right) poses with the patient he helped perform a life-saving procedure on. Also pictured are medical team members Dr. Ana Gonzalez (left), Dr. Hugo St. Hilaire (third from left) and Dr. Eddie Gharzouzi (kneeling) and members of the patient’s family.

When Dr. Rizwan Aslam enrolled in the Freeman School’s PMBA program, he expected to get a peek inside the business world. He didn’t expect to save someone’s life.

As part of the program, Aslam, an associate professor of otolaryngology and neurosurgery at Tulane University School of Medicine, signed up for Healthcare in Central America, a course targeted at students in Tulane’s MD/MBA program designed to help them understand the Latin American healthcare system. Students in the course spend a week in Guatemala touring medical facilities and learning the country’s healthcare delivery and financing systems. Through Freeman’s partnership with Universidad Francisco Marroquin (UFM), a private university in Guatemala City, students also participate in clinical rotations alongside medical students in a rural clinic as well as administrative rotations in insurance company-owned hospitals, state hospitals and other healthcare organizations.

Shortly after returning from Guatemala, Aslam received a phone call from a surgeon he’d met during the trip. One of his patients had a large tumor on the top of her head, but the hospital had no doctors with the training necessary to remove it. The doctor asked Aslam if he could assist in performing the urgent, life-saving surgery.

“The patient needed a very sophisticated reconstruction that nobody in Guatemala could perform,” Aslam recalls. “And she had no means to do the surgery otherwise since she couldn’t come to us, so we went to her.” Aslam and Dr. Hugo St. Hilaire, a New Orleans-based reconstructive surgeon, flew to Guatemala and successfully performed the procedure.

“She is doing very well and still communicates with us,” Aslam says. “It was really an amazing experience.”

Aslam hopes to continue collaborating with his Guatemalan colleagues.

“Our goal is to work together to create a more sustainable model that allows us to provide care more frequently to those who really need it,” says Aslam. “Working through the Freeman School made this collaboration possible, which ultimately led to saving someone’s life.”

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