In the right place at the right time
When an earthquake struck in Nepal, Andrew Trotter called upon the skills and experience he gained at Loyola to aid the emergency response
By Lauren Krause (BA ’10)
For Andrew Trotter (MD ’07), medicine has always been a global experience. After his first year at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine, Trotter volunteered in India and later on spent one rotation in Bolivia. These experiences helped shape his idea of a life in international health. After Loyola, he continued his global career while working as a resident at the University of Illinois and an infectious disease fellow at Tufts Medical Center.
St. Ignatius encouraged his followers to seek God in all things, to serve those in need, and to become people for others. Learn how his mission can be seen in everything we do at Loyola.Read more stories.
Trotter now works in Nepal, where his skills were put to the test when an earthquake hit in 2015. In this interview he discusses that experience and how his time at Loyola prepared him for a career in international medicine.
What’s been the most gratifying part of your time in Nepal?
First, teaching medical students and nurses. Teaching is a time-consuming and sometimes hard job. It requires a lot of planning and work to be done right. However, I enjoy teaching, both in the classroom and at the bedside.
There is nothing more gratifying than having a student whom you taught be able to give a perfect answer, treatment plan, or differential diagnosis. In medicine, you realize that you can touch and impact more than just one patient at a time—through teaching other students, residents, and nurses.
Second is being able to provide hope and safety to people living with HIV. In Nepal, those people can face stigma and discrimination in almost every aspect of their lives, sometimes quite openly. They are refused jobs, housing, medical care, and education. For many people, this can profoundly affect their ability to follow up on care and medication. I find it very gratifying to provide a place where they can speak about their HIV status openly; for many patients our clinic is the only place they can.
How did the Nepal earthquake affect your work?
When the earthquake happened, I was at home. After the initial tremor stopped, I went to a basketball court, which was a gathering point for the people in my neighborhood. People were in shock, and no one was quite sure of what to do.
Once I got to the hospital, I realized the true effects of the earthquake. There were patients everywhere: on beds, on chairs, on tables, on the floor. Many had broken bones, head injuries, punctured lungs, and back injuries.
Over the next few days, I spent my time helping take care of patients and supervising the medical residents, but the patients kept coming—first just from Kathmandu but then from the outlying areas—I had never seen anything like it.
How did your training at Loyola prepare you to deal with that kind of situation?
There were a lot of traumatic injuries, which as an infectious disease specialist and internist, I don’t see often. I realized later that the trauma assessment and triage skills I was using came from Loyola during my trauma surgery rotation.
As a medical student, I still remember staying at the hospital overnight and being paged by the surgery residents late at night. I would rush to the trauma area of the emergency department at Loyola and the residents would make us perform the trauma assessments.
I remember being so nervous and unsure about doing the assessment myself, but I now know that I was able to respond the way I did during the earthquake because of those surgical residents at Loyola when I was a medical student.
Do you have any advice for doctors who want to work internationally?
I would tell them to try to get as much experience as soon as possible. International health can mean a lot of things, not just the location but the type of work you do and your role. You need to figure out where you fit. Do you want to work in an office and liaise with governments to make policy, or do you want to work in the field? Do you want to work in large international organizations?
No amount of classes or schooling can show you that. You need to get the experience to understand what you want.