University of Maryland Ear, Nose & Throat Team Preparing, Fundraising for Annual Volunteer Medical Mission

The University of Maryland Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) team is gearing up for their next volunteer medical mission trip – and they’re hoping you can help them help more people. The team, led by head and neck surgeons Rodney Taylor, MD and Jeffrey Wolf, MD, has begun fundraising for their March 2017 medical mission to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Fiji Team

The ENT Team during last year’s mission trip to Fiji

Every year, the ENT team travels to different under-served parts of the world to provide their services free of charge. The crew is dedicated to providing world-class care to those in need. They pay 100 percent of their own way, including airfare, shipping costs for their equipment and the cost of purchasing additional supplies not available onsite.

This year, the funds raised will also pay for patient transportation. While there is one hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, many Vietnamese citizens living in the rural hills don’t have easy access to health care. In fact, some of them have never even been to a hospital. This year, the ENT team will be covering the funds to get patients from their homes to the hospital to receive the care they need.

In Vietnam, Dr. Taylor says there is a higher rate of cleft lip and cleft palate, so they expect to see a lot of patients suffering from those conditions. The team also is planning to treat many patients with goiters (enlarged thyroid), parotid tumors (in the salivary glands), sinal nasal masses and even some cancers.

“It’s an area where we can make the biggest impact during our time there,” Dr. Taylor said. “We will also get the chance to soak in the culture, and learn valuable lessons from the patients we serve.”

Another huge win for the team, and the patients in turn, is the addition of a pediatric anesthesiologist to this year’s crew. That means the team will able to operate on children needing surgery, not just adults.

The ENT team is working with the Project Vietnam Foundation, a nonprofit humanitarian organization working to create sustainable pediatric health care in Vietnam, while providing free health care and aid to impoverished rural areas across the country.

All of the ENT mission trips are made possible through donations. If you cannot make it to the happy hour, donations are welcome on the Maryland ENT Mission website: http://www.marylandentmissions.org/donate.


­­­­Last year, the team traveled to Fiji for their annual medical mission. They performed 15 surgeries and saw 150 patients before the island was rocked by Cyclone Winston. Learn more here.

Living with Mesothelioma: A New Normal

In December of 2007, Timonium resident Jen Blair was pregnant with her second son, Kevin. It was a “very painful pregnancy.” She went to a few doctors, who told her the pain was normal. The pain returned, “worse than ever,” six weeks after giving birth to Kevin.  More doctors. More tests. She was first told she needed laparoscopic surgery, then that she had stage 4 cancer in her abdomen. She was told to get her affairs in order.

It turns out Jen had peritoneal (in the abdomen) mesothelioma, in which cancer cells are found in the membranes around organs in the abdomen. This is very rare — only about 350-500 cases are diagnosed annually in the US – and the five-year survival rate is just 16 percent.

“It was overwhelming,” Blair said.

Now that she knew what she was up against, it was time to find a doctor.
Her brother did an Internet search of the best Mesothelioma doctors, and up popped H. Richard Alexander, MD, an internationally recognized surgical oncologist and clinical researcher at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC). UMGCCC is only a half hour from her house, but Blair said her choice had much more to do than travel time from home.

“Dr. Alexander’s team was incredibly supportive,” Blair said. “When I called with literally dozens of questions, some of which, thinking back now, were ridiculous, they always took time to give me an answer. That really impressed me.”
Just a week after calling UMGCCC about her condition, Blair met with Dr. Alexander.  After an examination, Dr. Alexander told Blair that she was a candidate for surgery. For surgery to be an option in  treating mesothelioma, it has to be considered a safe operation, and the disease has to be confined to one area. Blair decided to have surgery.

“That one decision changes everything for a patient,” Blair said.  “Not all doctors specializing in mesothelioma have the patient’s best interest at heart.”

Many doctors, Blair said, are motivated by money.  She said she’s heard horror stories from other mesothelioma patients, where doctors demanded an upfront sum of money—sometimes adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars—before operating.  But not at UMGCCC.

In March 2008, Dr. Alexander performed surgery with HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy), which uses heated chemotherapy in combination with surgery to treat cancers that have spread to the abdomen lining.  While surgery to treat mesothelioma isn’t a cure, Jen’s quality and quantity of life have been greatly improved.

Blair was virtually pain free for more than seven years after the surgery, and was able to spend time with her family, and watch her two sons, Kevin and Nick, as they grew up. She had a second surgery with HIPEC in March 2015, and more than a year later, suffers very few episodes of pain.

While the days are still hard and life won’t ever be normal, Jen says it’s a huge relief having Dr. Alexander and his team in her corner.

“Dr. Alexander is hopeful, but realistic,” Blair said. “That’s important.”

Jen now works as a volunteer at UMGCCC, comforting and supporting other patients going through the same things as her.  She also works closely with the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, which is a non-profit “dedicated to ending mesothelioma and the suffering caused by it, by funding research, providing education and support for patients and their families, and by advocating for federal funding of mesothelioma research.”

Learn more about the Mesothelioma and Thoracic Oncology Treatment Center at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Center by clicking here.

Volunteering at a Medical Center

By: Andrea Rizkallah, Editorial Intern

AndreaVolunteering is a rewarding activity, which is why I love my position as editorial intern in the Corporate Communications department at the University of Maryland Medical Center. I thought that I had to be a medical student in order to volunteer at a medical center, but luckily I was wrong. I was able to get an administrative position that still makes a difference and offers me great experience.

The Corporate Communications department coordinates blood drives that help save lives, updates the website with valuable information for patients and families, keeps Medical Center employees updated on training events and interviews patients to communicate their stories. Even though we are not transplanting lungs or performing surgery, we are still deeply involved with the hospital. I have completed projects that really make me feel like I am part of the team, and these contributions make me feel accomplished and useful.

The volunteer program here at the University of Maryland is great because I am getting hands on experience. I get to learn how the hospital works and what goes into the everyday functions of a medical center.  Although my role is an administrative one, I feel that I am making a difference, and that is a lot to take away from a volunteer position.

Volunteers work in all areas including the Emergency department, Shock Trauma Center, Medical Records department, Dental Clinic, Psychiatry department, and many more.  There are some requirements to volunteering at the hospital:

  • You must be at least 13 years old and be able to commit to four hours a week.
  • To receive credit, recommendations or certificates, you must volunteer at least 75 hours of time.
  • All prospective volunteers must return the required paperwork to the volunteer office prior to interviews.

Learn more about how to have a rewarding volunteer experience.

Nurse Manager Named Hometown Hero by the American Red Cross

By Malissa Carroll
UMMC Web Team

Connie Noll, the nurse manager for adult psychiatry services at UMMC, has been named a Hometown Hero by the American Red Cross, with whom she has been a volunteer since high school and throughout her career.

“Connie’s lifelong career with the American Red Cross demonstrates a commitment to caring for others that is truly heroic. It is a privilege and honor to work closely with someone whose dedication and compassion for others is seemingly limitless,” says Lisa Rowen, senior vice president for patient care services and chief nursing officer at UMMC. Rowen and Judy A. Slide, director of nursing for neurocare, behavioral health and radiology, nominated Noll for the award.

In 1994, Noll received training in disaster mental health (DMH). Since then, she has responded to help survivors at the most devastating disaster scenes in the country. As a Red Cross volunteer, Noll helped residents of Van Nuys, Calif., cope after a 6.8 earthquake struck the region.

When terrorism struck this country – in Oklahoma after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and on Sept. 11, 2001, in Pennsylvania and New York, Noll provided services at the scenes in the immediate crisis and in the months afterward.

She also visited New Orleans one month after Hurricane Katrina to aid local relief efforts. There, she served as manager for staff mental health and oversaw 2,000 paid and volunteer Red Cross staff. Last year, Noll provided support at the site of a plane crash in Buffalo, NY, where she accompanied families of the crew to the crash site.

In addition to her work with the national Red Cross, Noll remains active at the local level as well. She leads Red Cross Mental Health volunteers at the organization’s York, Pa., chapter and is a part of the Disaster Action Team that responds to local fires and other civil events in an effort to provide crisis intervention, psychological first aid and emergency referrals.

At UMMC, Noll has also been responsive. She was instrumental in establishing the Workforce Resilience Team to aid Medical Center employees after the economic recession began in 2008.