Dr. Harold Pine and team travel to Nepal for medical mission and unparalleled trek

EverestHarold Pine, MD, FAAP, FACS, Associate Professor for Pediatric Otolaryngology in our Department of Otolaryngology, will lead a team to Nepal this week for the Everest Medical Expedition 2015. One part personal challenge, one part medical mission, the journey will last nearly three weeks and encompass 12 days of trekking along a route to Mount Everest. The team hopes to run ENT clinics at various locations, including at Everest Base Camp.

While attending the 12th International Congress of the European Society of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology (ESPO) in Dublin last year, Dr. Pine met Dr. Kashi Raj Gyawali, an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) surgeon at B & B Hospital in Nepal. Having been to Nepal — Dr. Pine proposed to his wife there and calls the surroundings “some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet” — Dr. Pine was interested in returning to the region to serve in a health care capacity.

After ESPO, he and Dr. Gyawali maintained their connection and began designing the Everest expedition. Traveling to the region will allow Dr. Pine’s team to learn more about what Dr. Gyawali does and how they might assist the community.

“We happen to have not only the expertise but the particular tools that can help.” The group will bring standard otoscopes to look in patients’ ears, along with alligator forceps to remove objects from the ear, if necessary.

“With simple stuff, we can make a big difference,” he says. They are also donating some disposable curettes for adenoid surgery and some high-end blades to assist in endoscopic sinus surgery.

Also joining Dr. Pine from UTMB are Dayton Young, MD, Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology; Lemuel Aigbivbalu, MD, a Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Pediatric Hospital Medicine Physician; and Ben McIntire, MD, Postgraduate Year Two Otolaryngology resident. Five other doctors, an experienced mission volunteer and two hiking enthusiasts make up the rest of the group.

Expecting the environment to be challenging, Dr. Pine notes that any trip of this nature includes various unknowns. “It’s not an easy place to be; it’s not an easy place to work,” he says. “At one point, we’re going to be high enough that the oxygen is half what it is at sea level.” But, he adds, there can be a big payoff for the hard work: “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of crucible to do this trek. With the right prepping, it can be a really life-altering experience.”

Dr. Pine joined UTMB in 2009. He is a member of the Humanitarian Efforts Committee for the American Academy of Otolaryngology. His honors include the Excellence in Clinical Teaching Award from the John P. McGovern Academy of Oslerian Medicine, the Byron Bailey Surgical Society Teaching Excellence Award from UTMB’s Department of Otolaryngology, and the Rose Award for Excellence in Pediatric Otolaryngology. He was named to the Texas Super Doctors Rising Stars list in 2013.