This one week trip from 17-23rd April 2017 included a team of 10 overseas volunteers, to the beautiful Gizo hospital, in the far Western Province of the Solomon Islands.  
The overseas volunteers included two colorectal surgeons (Dr Mark Muhlmann & Dr Susan Shedda), one obstetrician & gynaecologist (Dr Norman Blumenthal), and three anaesthetists (Dr Geoff Symonds, Dr Jessica Smith, & Dr Rachel McLennan).  This trip also included four final year medical students from Notre Dame University (Ariah Steel, Graeme Wertheimer, Andrew Dind & Shanice Sri ).

GIZO teamdeparting sydney airportDAISI farewell at Sydney airport. Left to Right: Ariah Steel, Shanice Sri (medical students), Dr Jessica Smith & Dr Rachel McLennan (anaesthetists), Andrew Dind (medical student) Dr Mark Mulhmann, Dr Norman Blumenthal (gynaecologist) and Dr Geoff Symonds (anaesthetist).

Due to a friendly check in staff member at Qantas, the team was able to collectively check in 167.4 kg of medical supplies donated by Liz Horder from Mater Private Hospital, including 8kg of anaesthetic airways appliances (100 endotracheal & nasopharyngeal tubes, 10 largygeal masks,  50 Guedels airways, 100 gastroscopy airways mouthpieces); 20kg of betadine; 11.5kg of containers and kidney dishes, 15kg of dressings, 4.6kg of anaesthetic tubing circuits;  10kg of surgical mesh, 50 kg of laparoscopic equipment including an olympus light source and stryker insufflator, 20 hook diathemies, 11  endocatch devices, 20 stapling & fixation devices,  100 ports, 4 CO2 insufflator tubes, 5 laparoscopic suction/irrigators); 10kg of needles and sutures and stoma bags, and an automated BP machine.  

The team were met at Brisbane airport by colorectal surgeon Dr Susan Shedda and medical student Graeme Wertheimer, who brought with them a laparoscopic trainer donated by Applied.

douglas pikacha

Volunteer senior surgeon Dr Douglas Pikacha from NRH who was the leader of the colorectal and general surgical team to Gizo hospital.

Dr Douglas Pikacha from National Referral Hospital, was unable to bring with him from Honiara two cylinders of carbon-dioxide due to flight regulations but luckily just under two bottles of CO2 were already available at Gizo. 

Unlike previous trips, this trip had greater local involvement, with senior doctors from National Referral Hospital (NRH) coming to Gizo to volunteer, and particpate in the screening of patients and surgery. Senior Surgeon Dr Douglas Pikacha coordinated the colorectal and general surgical team, and gynaecologist Dr Benjamin Koete coordinated the O&G team.  O&G registrar Dr Briley Pinau from National Referral Hospital (NRH) also attended. Gynaecology patients had been screened three days earlier, to facilitate early start for surgery.

IMG_6036Left to right: Dr Norman Blumenthal, Shanice Sri, Lalitha Sasa,  Dr Rachel McLennan,  Dr Benjamine Koete, Dr Jessica Smith, Dr Susan Shedda, Dr Mark Mulhmann, Andrew Dind, Dr Briley Pinau  (O&G registrar), Graeme Wertheimer, Dr Douglas Pikacha, Dr Jahrad Liligeto (surgical registrar), & Ariah Steel.

The focus of this trip was to teach safe, basic key-hole (laparoscpic) surgery (for example, diagnostic laparoscopy, laparoscopic tubal ligation, and laparoscopic appendicectomy and cholecystectomy) to the surgical registrar Dr Jahrad Liligeto and O&G consultant Dr Benjamin Koete and O&G registrars Dr Jenny Sigoto and Dr Briley Pinau. To facilitate learning, a laparoscopic trainer was brought to allow practice of the skills required for laparoscopic surgery.  

norman blumenthal with lap trainer at Gizo hospital

Left to right: Dr Norman Blumenthal, Dr Benjamin Koete and Dr  Mark Muhlmann using the Lap trainer donated by Applied® and brought in luggage from Brisbane by final year Notre Dame medical student Graeme Wertheimer. 

Dr Geoff Symonds teaching spinal anaesthesia at Gizo hospital

Left to right: Anaesthetist Dr Geoff Symonds and Andrew Dind giving spinal anaesthesia. 

In in addition to laparoscopic surgery, Dr Benjamin Koete was taken through his first vaginal hysterectomy.


Left to right:  Anaesthetists Dr Rachel McLennan and Jessica Smith checking Gizo’s anaesthetic set-up.


Dr Normal Blumenthal (Gynaecologist and Senior Lecturer from Notre Dame University) in the centre, with medical students left to right: Aria Steel, Andrew Dind, Graeme Wertheimer and Shanice Sri.


Left to right: Dr Mark Muhlmann and Dr Rachel McLennan exiting the DASH 8 at Gizo (Nasatupe) airport. 

Graeme Werthemier with his delivered baby

Medical student Graeme Wertheimer with the mother and the baby he delivered. 

Ariah Steel and Shanice Sri with nurse Lalitha Fuo

Medical students Ariah Steel and Shanice Sri with Gizo OT nurses Lalitha Sasa and ??

Anaesthetist Geoff Symonds with medical student Shanice Sri

Left to right: Anaesthetist Dr Geoff Symonds with medical student Shanice Sri.


Left to right: Shanice Sri & Graeme Wertheimer at Gizo hospital recovery. 

Ariah Steel with Lalitha Fuo

Left to right: Medical student Ariah Steel with scrub nurse Lalitha Sasa. 

All volunteers stayed at Naqua hotel where the communal living arrangement was great for team comradery. Being the closest hotel to Gizo also allowed for easy quick review of post operative patients.  Dinner most evenings was at Gizo hotel.

After a morning of operating and afternoon boat trip to the beautiful surrounding coral reef for snorkling then to a submerged WWII submerged Hellcat fighter plan and then Picnic at Kennedy Island was followed by a relaxed game of cards in the evening at Sanbis resort.

The last day of the visit was a day of relaxation with all surgery completed with DAISI volunteers having lunch with Gizo doctors and theatre staff  and head matron of the hospital at the legendary restaurant PT109 named after the torpedo boat sunk by Japanese and commanded by lieutenant John F. Kennedy during WWII.  This was followed by a 40 minute bumpy dirt road drive to the far Western Lazae beach organised by Dr Jahrad Liligeto using the hospital vehicle and and Dr Jenny Sigoto’s uncle’s ute. The older members travelled in comfort in the hospital vehicle with the younger members packing into the back of the ute doing it “Gizo style”.  It was a relaxing last day enjoying the natural beauty of Lazae beach.  The evening was spent celebrating and dancing late into the evening at Gizo hotel.


DAISI trip # 5 – 17th -23rd April 2017 (Gynae, General & Colorectal) to Gizo hospital


2 gastroscopy
2 colonoscopy
5 minors (Gynae)
7  majors (Gynae)
6 minors (Colorectal)
3 majors (General)
9 minors (General)
34 Total Cases