Doctor with a heart for Samoa
Most people use their annual leave to take a break and enjoy life.
Not Dr. Jonathan Masters.
The Auckland based urologist; Dr. Masters is spending his holiday volunteering at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole hospital.
In Apia for five days, Dr. Masters has been performing open and endoscopic laser surgery for kidney and ureteric stones, shock wave lithotripsy, transurethral resection of prostate for benign prostate disease.
These laser treatments started last year when the hospital purchased the Laser lithotripsy machine, according to Dr. Masters.
“The hospital purchased the equipment last year and it’s about $150,000NZ and while it’s expensive, this equipment saves lives. I’m happy the hospital has invested in this machine,” he said.
“It’s $40,000 NZD to send a patient overseas for the laser operation,” he pointed out.
“So last year I was here for a month and I was able to teach my colleagues how to operate the machine."
“Aside from conducting operations, I have also taught the surgeons here on how to use the equipment, and the treatment for the patients after the surgery.”
Dr. Masters told the Sunday Samoan that his colleague, Dr. Alfredo Adams, and his team are awesome people to work with.
“Since I left, last year my local colleagues have done surgery for 50 patients. Again my colleagues here are amazing, they are fast learners on how to do the operation and do it successfully."
“It takes skills to conduct the laser operation, it’s very precise you have to put the telescope into the bladder up to the ureter and treat the stones."
“And they learned it really quick."
“This is the latest technology in treatment of kidney stones and without treatment peopled develop kidney failure which is a common problem in Samoa.”
During this short trip, Dr. Masters has managed 18 operations for large prostates.
Looking back to as far as 2007, Dr. Masters said they had to bring all the equipment.
“Now the hospital has the equipment which makes a lot of difference. Also the nurses in the theater are well versed with what is needed before and after the operation, so it’s been good."
“I’m very fortunate with surgeons like Dr Alfredo Adams and our other colleagues who know how to do these operations locally.”
His volunteering work is not limited to Samoa.
Dr. Masters has been helping out in Nepal, Zambia and will go to Vanuatu for the first time later this year.”
He also spoke about the challenges of his job.
“As a surgeon, it’s quite difficult because when you operate where you don’t normally operate, you have to be accepting that things may be different, the equipment might be different…you just have to be patient and accept that things may be different."
“It’s a little bit of the right attitude to be able to work in different places.”
Dr. Masters’s trips to Samoa are funded by his colleagues in Auckland who share the same love for the Samoan Community.
“Like I said, I have been to Nepal, Zambia in Africa but it does not match up to the number of times I’ve been to Samoa."
“This is because I love Samoa, if I didn’t I wouldn’t be back six times already. I have a full time job in New Zealand and in order to come here I have to take personal leave."
“I would save up my annual and sick leave to cover the days I come to Samoa."
“I fell in love with Samoans, when I treated several of them ... they are charming, friendly and just loving people and that was the uniqueness that drew my attention to coming to Samoa with a group of physicians.
“So my colleagues who are not able to come have always piled up tools and equipment for me to bring back to help our local hospital. My colleagues have saved up money for my airfare.”
Dr. Masters is grateful for his colleagues, especially “my wife Mandy, who knows why I do what I do… I couldn’t have done it without her support."
“I have been married to my wife for 28 years and I’m overwhelmed with the support she’s given to the volunteering work I do, because of my passion to help those in need.”
According to the Southern Cross Auckland hospital website, where Dr. Masters currently work, he’s a surgical expert and performs a large number of radical prostatectomies for prostate cancer and major pelvic and reconstructive surgery for bladder cancer.
Masters’s MD is in bladder smooth muscle physiology and he maintains this interest with urodynamic investigation and management of bladder dysfunction contributing to urinary incontinence.
He also completed courses on the use of Botulinum in bladder over activity and Interstitial Cystitis. He offers a full range of office and daycase urology including scrotal surgery, vasectomy, vasectomy reversal, flexible cystoscopy, urodynamics and TRUS biopsies.
He is involved in research with colleagues at Auckland University looking at prostate cancer prevention.