Local News

UNC doctor travels thousands of miles to perform lifesaving surgeries

Posted February 22, 2019 8:31 p.m. EST
Updated February 22, 2019 10:38 p.m. EST

— A local doctor is taking her mission of healing 8,000 miles across world.

When pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Carolyn Quinsey isn’t walking the halls or operating at UNC Children’s Hospital, she’s taking her experience and expertise to the African country of Malawi where, for the last four years, she has performed much needed and, in some cases, lifesaving neurosurgeries.

“I think the most surprising thing is how inspiring it is to see what is already being done there with so much less resources,” Quinsey said.

That inspiration is at the core of Quinsey’s work in Malawi’s capital city of Lilongwe.

“I was so inspired by what they’re already accomplishing, and it made me excited to think, if we did give them more things and help and education, they can accomplish even more,” she said.

The mission takes Quinsey and her colleagues to Malawi twice a year for two weeks at a time. The group is preparing for another trip to Malawi next month.

With just one neurosurgeon at Kamuzu Central Hospital, Quinsey’s team is able to help patients, many of whom had been waiting several weeks for surgery.

“The last visit we were there, we operated on a couple of children with hydrocephalus,” she said. “When I was talking with one of the moms, she just expressed her gratitude, because she knew that getting an operation, not everybody gets that, and she was really glad for the opportunity, and her gratitude is overwhelming.”

Quinsey trained at UNC Hospitals, and she has been part of the faculty for the past year and a half. She said her work in Malawi is helping her train the next generation of neurosurgeons.

“What keeps me going back is what I know can be there in the future, and what we’re trying to build there, which is a collaboration where potentially our residents could learn from them,” she said.

UNC Project Malawi is funded by philanthropic money and developed as an offshoot of a project to fight infectious diseases and HIV in the region.

Eventually, Quinsey and her colleagues want to create a virtual presence in Malawi, so they can consult with doctors there with the click of a mouse. The hope is to create a global partnership to continue making a difference now and in the future.