You could say that Dr. Kai Engstad has a true heart for medicine. As a cardiothoracic surgeon, his days are filled with Minimally Invasive Cardiac and Thoracic surgeries and assisting patients who rely on pacemakers to control heart rhythm. His heart for medicine has crossed international waters with the start of MYHEARTUS, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the facilities, patient care, and training of medical staff in Myanmar, the poorest country in Asia.
Engstad travels there three or four times a year and stays for a week to mentor surgeons as they continue to develop their surgical skills. During these trips, there are several cases planned out, sometimes sprinkled with some complex cases that the Myanmar surgeons and their surgical team (perfusionists and anesthesiologists) have not experienced.
“One of the things that I’ve just found tremendously satisfying is being able to share the knowledge that I’ve gained in cardiac surgery with my colleagues abroad,” Engstad said during an interview on Scrubbing In. “There’s just an absolutely tremendous need for cardiac surgery training around the world and people are really hungry for it, and it’s extremely satisfying.”
And even when Engstad’s not physically in Myanmar, the advances in medical technology allow him to communicate, share information, and review cases with the teams abroad.
“We all get burdened a little bit with politics and hospitals and rules and regulations and paperwork and the electronic medical record,” he said. “Doing international work is really, I find, tremendously refreshing and you come back pretty recharged. I’d really encourage people to get involved in whatever way they can because we’re all extremely lucky to be cardiothoracic surgeons in the US. We’re just extremely privileged and it’s nice to be able to share a little bit of our privilege with others.”