Urology volunteers both teach and learn, IVU says

December 1, 2005

As the only nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching urology in developing countries, International Volunteers in Urology (IVU) provides a number of opportunities for residents and practicing urologists alike. Volunteers offer their teaching and clinical skills and learn about resourcefulness and compassion in return, IVU President Catherine deVries, MD, says in this exclusive interview. She was interviewed by UT Editorial Consultant Richard D. Williams, MD, professor and chairman of the department of urology at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. Dr. Williams also leads a volunteer surgical team that travels to Haiti each year.

As the only nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching urology in developing countries, International Volunteers in Urology (IVU) provides a number of opportunities for residents and practicing urologists alike. Volunteers offer their teaching and clinical skills and learn about resourcefulness and compassion in return, IVU President Catherine deVries, MD, says in this exclusive interview. She was interviewed by UT Editorial Consultant Richard D. Williams, MD, professor and chairman of the department of urology at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. Dr. Williams also leads a volunteer surgical team that travels to Haiti each year.

A: IVU was established 10 years ago as an organization dedicated to teaching urology and providing surgical service in developing countries. It was established to fill a need for such service in the area of urology. Even though there are similar programs in plastic surgery, orthopedics, and others, there had not been an organization such as this for urology. And there was a big demand. There were urologists from the United States and Europe who wanted to volunteer their time, services, and teaching, and a number of countries had invited us to come work with them but there was no organization to help support that effort.

We created a newsletter to let each other know what we were doing. From there, it grew partly through the mentorship of Dr. Charles McKiel at the AUA, who helped us to organize and provided support for the newsletter to get the word out. Not long after that, we started to help volunteers go on different missions, and in the late 1990s, we developed our resident scholarship program.

Q: Aside from resident scholarships for travel to developing countries, what other things does IVU do?

A: Actually, it's grown to become much bigger than that. We have a Pediatric Teaching Team program, which is dedicated primarily to teaching and also to service. We teach techniques such as hypospadias repair as well as more complex surgery in developing countries. We've been doing this kind of work in Vietnam, Mongolia, Cuba, Mozambique, and other countries. We take full teams, including anesthesiologists, surgeons, nurses, and some residents in the pediatric programs, and we conduct four to six of these workshops per year.