Top 10 from the Gobi

While the entire trip has been amazing, Lindsay and I thought it would be fun to share a Top 10 from our week in the Gobi! Hope you enjoy!

  1. Doggii is perfect – Doggii is our tour guide and she is THE BEST! If you ever find yourself itching to go to Mongolia, please contact Doggii. She can do all things and is basically the MacGyver/Bond Girl of the Gobi.
  2. Dr. Evans has a great “Woo Woo” when he is really excited. You should ask him about it anytime and every time you see him.
  3. Believe it or not, Dr. Sheth slowly overcame some of his neurotic tendencies. In fact, he fell in love with camel riding and horseback riding. Even though he didn’t speak for the first 10 minutes on the camel, we assumed he was having a great time.
  4. Don’t try and keep up with the drivers or Doggii while hiking. They can hike the highest cliff with the sharpest rocks in dress shoes and make it look easy, while the rest of the group is trying not to fall off the cliff.
  5. Ger camps are amazing and not as awful as the previous group claimed. Despite what they said, we did not experience any aggressive spiders or battle an army of flies.
  6. Always bring Dramamine. LOTS OF DRAMAMINE. The roads in the Gobi are non-existant and will push your stomach to its limits.
  7. The stargazing potential in the Gobi is life changing. There is next to no light pollution which means that we got an “HD” version of the night sky. You can see everything: the Milky Way, shooting stars, constellations, galore.
  8. Horses can be LAZY! Be sure to find a guide that is an expert in motivating the horses to keep moving.
  9. Come prepared for hot and cold weather. The Gobi can have mood swings.
  10. The sense of isolation in the Gobi is both restorative and scary. Being at the ger camps, you can look around in all directions and not see anything for miles. (Sometimes SB would have thoughts that involved “if I got hurt out here, how far away is the closest medical center? -Far -OK clumsy self, don’t get hurt”)



Week 2 Summary: Ethan

During Week 2, we flew to the Gobi desert and explored the amazing beauty and saw how the Mongolian people survive such a desolate climate. You have not seen stars until you go to the Gobi Desert and look at the night sky. Without any light pollution, the entire sky is speckled with bright, shining stars. You can even see the Milky Way! During the days, we saw incredible sights such as Vulture Canyon, the Great Mongolian Sand Dunes, the burning cliffs where many dinosaur fossils have been found, and met wonderful people along the way- Lived an upscale version of the Mongolian nomadic lifestyle- love the dirt roads!. Dr. Sheth was even brave enough to ride a camel with us, although I must admit he looked terrified for a good portion of the ride. Then we flew back to UB, and drove to Tyrelj  National Park where we took in the vastly different landscape, visited a Buddhist temple, and rode horses on the special Mongolian wooden saddles back to our ger camp. Then we had a day in UB to relax, explore the city, and prepare for our 36-hour journey back home. 

NO doubt this was a trip of a lifetime, and certainly changed many of my perspectives on this world. Can’t wait to go again!


End of Trip Reflections from Eric

Well our week at NCMCH has come to an end and today the team said good-bye to old friends and new friends as well. Overall, it was probably the best interaction we have had in our 4 visits to the center. Everyone we met at the hospital seemed hungry for information and consultations and all of the lectures given by the team were incredibly well received. Drs. Sheth, and Evans, Nurse Sarah and Child Life Therapist Lindsey were absolutely amazing. On the last night Dr. Enkhtur, the Hospital director invited us to dinner at the ShangriLa with the leaders of foreign affairs department and each of the departments we participated in. Although Dr. Enkhtur was in the end unable to come, it was a wonderful way to wrap up the week and all were interested in when our next visit would be. There was a long discussion about which subspecialists they would like us to bring including Pediatric surgery, Palliative care, pathology and immunology among others.

As far as hem/onc is concerned, the new center is spectacular and the commitment and hard work of the team is quite evident. However they have a number of challenges coming up including the transfer of all the solid tumor patients from the National Cancer Center to the Children’s Hospital. In the end this is the right thing for all concerned, but at this time, the oncologists at the NCMCH have no experience taking care of children with solid tumors, nor does the pathologist. In addition, radiation therapy, so important in treating solid tumors is also a problem. They also are in the planning for a palliative care program and even a stem cell transplant program. We spent a great deal of time talking about treatment protocols, diagnostic tools, formularies and staff needs. On my return home, I plan to work with my colleagues in Mongolia to develop diagnosis specific treatment plans and encouraged them to send us any questions we might be able to help with including diagnostic path slides for interpretation. I believe we will continue to have ongoing communication and that this relationship inspired by Jonathan Soud will only get stronger!

Thank you so much to all of our supporters- especially the Soud family and Wolfson Children’s Hospital!

Week 1 Reflections from Ethan

Since I last wrote a post, I was able to spend some time in Neurology, Gastroenterology, and at the Developmental Center at Dr. Rita’s orphanage. During the remainder of our week at WCMC, I learned more about the difference between American health care and Mongolian health care. Aside from the differences in medicines that are available for the physicians to prescribe and administer, the equipment is also vastly different. The neurologist at the hospital has been treating patients with seizures without the availability of an EEG! For Hematology/Oncology, the physicians were not comfortable with the hospital’s pathologists interpretation of solid tumors as they had so little experience.

It is important to realize that in the few years that the Wolfson’s group has been coming to Mongolia, the hospital has undergone significant changes. The Hematology/Oncology unit went from one room with about 12 beds, to THREE FLOORS in a brand new building totaling 56 beds! They are constantly learning and improving, and will begin to receive patients with brain tumors and solid tumors in January. The residents and new physicians that we encountered all work extremely hard, but the person who works the hardest is the social worker, who is the only one for the whole hospital and volunteers her time on the weekend to make sure she has time to spend with Hem/Onc patients and their families. What I took away from this trip is that all of the staff at WCMC has the intelligence and drive to provide excellent health care. What they lack, is some of the necessary resources that American medicine takes for granted. Their job in Mongolia is incredibly difficult, yet they are always optimistic toward the future as they continue to gain new technology and resources that they can use.

Overall, the medical center was surprising for the improvement they have had over the last few years, especially that new building. The reason the system continues to improve, however, is the bright, hard-working staff that is constantly looking for innovative ways to treat their patients with their limited resources. I look forward to seeing or hearing about the strides they take over the next few years, and hope that they continue to improve at the rapid pace I observed during my time Mongolia Bound.

-Ethan Sandler

Lindsay’s Reflections on Week 1

Child Life at the Women and Children’s Hospital

Our first week in Ulaanbaatar at the Women and Children’s Hospital was nothing short of amazing. Throughout the week I learned much more than I could have ever anticipated and am so sad to leave the sweet patients, families and staff members I have met.

At the beginning of the week I was filled with a lot of anxiety and was unsure how my role as a Child Life Specialist would be viewed. Thankfully, I was paired with an amazing social worker who is familiar with child life and has a passion to provide similar services to the patients she works with. Chimgee Naraa, is currently the only social worker that provides services to a 680 bed hospital along with providing services to the 1,100+ employees that work at the Women and Children’s Hospital. In her free time she also volunteers as a clown and comes in on the weekends to open the playrooms so the children can have some sort of socialization since volunteers are difficult to find.

Throughout the week, Chimgee and I were able to provide activities in the playroom as well as distraction during a variety of procedures. Honestly, I think I quickly became known as the girl with the book bag full of goodies and as a result, developed a pretty cool fan club that consisted of 5-6 oncology patients who followed me around everywhere I went. As I got to know the patients a little bit better, I was able to provide medical play in a group setting to show how basic medical supplies could be used in a non-threatening way. Medical play allows the patients control over objects that are often associated with negative feelings or painful experiences. By giving them an opportunity to manipulate those objects, they become less scary in the eyes of a child. Since medical supplies are not as prevalent as they are at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Chimgee and I had to improvise and use what we could find. Fortunately, an OR nurse gave us some gauze and tape so we could make butterflies out of medical supplies. Following this activity we managed to scrounge up some masks and went to the Hem/Onc playroom and facilitated a therapeutic activity with the masks we found. During this activity, each child could decorate their mask and then share what made them brave. It was so wonderful hearing their responses and as you can imagine, they had some pretty amazing answers. It was during this activity that I was reminded how fortunate we are and truly resilient these children are. One patient in particular decorated her mask with pictures of the toys I had given her throughout the week and when it was her turn to share, she looked at me and said that the gifts I had given her made her brave and no longer scared. I think it is important to keep in mind that I gave this sweet fighter a stress ball, a small thing of bubbles and some Play-Doh. That was all it took for her to feel special and most importantly, to feel brave. If that does not put things into perspective, I don’t know what would!

As the week came to an end, we began forming great friendships with the nurses and residents, all of whom are phenomenal people that work so hard to provide the best care possible for their patients. Each person we worked with had such a desire to learn and were all so eager to talk to me about Child Life. Many even felt comfortable inviting me in to assist with procedures such as IV starts and bone marrow aspirates on patients that weren’t sedated. Overall, it was an amazing experience and I only wish I could stay longer at the hospital. I will definitely think of the patients, families and staff we worked with and hope that their journey only gets better until the next time we are fortunate enough to return.

I also wanted send a huge thank you to the Soud family and Dr. Sandler for making this possible. I do not think I will ever be able to adequately tell you how much this trip has meant to me and how thankful I am for your support both personally and professionally. I have no doubt that Jonathan is beyond proud of this mission you have started and I feel so fortunate to have been a small part of it.


Patients undergo all of their lumbar punctures and bone marrow aspirates while awake. For this procedure, Lindsay tucked herself into the corner and offered some pain relief via distraction.

Patients undergo all of their lumbar punctures and bone marrow aspirates while awake. For this procedure, Lindsay tucked herself into the corner and offered some pain relief via distraction.

Enjoying some bubbles and practicing deep breathing in the playroom. Bubbles are a great way to provide distraction and get any patient to focus on their breathing during painful procedures.

Enjoying some bubbles and practicing deep breathing in the playroom.
Bubbles are a great way to provide distraction and get any patient to focus on their breathing during painful procedures.

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“Play is the work of children”
Jean Piaget

So much of my heart now belongs to these brave fighters!

So much of my heart now belongs to these brave fighters!


These 3 brave boys were so sweet and fun to work with. They followed me around everywhere I went.

These 3 brave boys were so sweet and fun to work with. They followed me around everywhere I went.

This little cutie was so happy playing with the bubbles that he did not even notice the procedure that was taking place.

This little cutie was so happy playing with the bubbles that he did not even notice the procedure that was taking place.


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