Katherine Meese, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAB Department of Health Services Administration, joined a surgical mission hosted by Hispaniola Medical Charity. She witnessed this dedicated team of American physicians working long hours with limited resources. But at the end of each day, rather than being exhausted, the team felt the exact opposite.

“A clear and shared sense of purpose and the opportunity to spend a lot of time bonding together as a team created a tremendously positive environment where members felt energized, not depleted,” said Meese, who also serves as director of research for the UAB Medicine Office of Wellness.

The mission trip was such a stark contrast to the hospital experience in the U.S. However, the physicians told Meese that while it was extremely demanding work, it was actually a “prophylactic against burnout at home.”

It was then that Meese decided students from the Master of Science in Health Administration program need exposure to this experience. Her aim is to take two MSHA students on next year’s mission trip. She believes it will inspire them to think differently about the approach to burnout.

Meese Surgery“By helping future healthcare administrators understand the conditions that enable clinicians to be rejuvenated and restored, we can begin to redesign the ways we approach clinician wellness and flourishing in our health care systems,” said Meese, an alumna of the UAB Doctor of Philosophy in Administration-Health Services program. “Right now we have a great opportunity to implement these concepts at home by focusing on clarifying our purpose, reconnecting to our shared mission to help others, and focusing on social cohesion.” 

This year’s mission trip was attended by clinicians from around the United States, including a team from UAB Medicine’s Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine consisting of Elizabeth Morris, M.D., Merrick Meese, M.D., Paul Piennette, M.D., and Logan Burgess, M.D.

While in the Dominican Republic they provided approximately three months' worth of free surgeries to patients at a public hospital. The local patients are typically required to purchase their own supplies for surgery, which makes access to surgery financially difficult if not impossible for many.

“It was incredible to see a team of strangers from around the United States come together and work towards a shared goal in complete harmony.”