#29 – Anesthesia in Chad, Africa: Part 1 – Mason McDowell, DNAP, CRNA

In 2014, Mason McDowell, DNAP, CRNA quit his job, sold most of what he owned and moved with his wife and two young daughters to Chad, Africa for a long-term commitment to provide anesthesia and education.  Here is a glimpse of their story.

Part 1 overviews Dr McDowell’s experience and challenges providing anesthesia and living in Chad.

In Part 2, Dr McDowell offers advice for CRNAs/SRNAs who are looking to travel internationally to provide anesthesia in developing nations.

The McDowell family’s time in Chad was interrupted abruptly by a deteriorating political situation making it unsafe for them to stay.  They lived in Bere, Chad for nearly two years before being forced to leave and return to the United States.  Since that time, Dr McDowell has traveled to Nepal and Sierra Leone to provide short term anesthesia services.  In this podcast I talk with him about the challenges of providing anesthesia in underdeveloped settings.  From the bugs at night in the desert heat to draw-over vaporizers and the heart wrenching stories of not having enough resources to provide care, Dr McDowell conveys what it was like for his family to live and work in Chad and what we can do as SRNAs, CRNAs and anesthesia providers to help serve underdeveloped nations.

This is really an amazing story that I’m honored to share.  You can read more about Dr McDowell’s time in Chad at his blog, Why We Should Go.  Dig deep, read the stories.  They’re amazing.


Dr Mason McDowell lives in Western North Carolina and serves as faculty with Western Carolina University’s (WCU) Graduate Nurse Anesthesia Program.  Before moving to Chad, he served as the Assistant Director of the Graduate Nurse Anesthesia Program at WCU.  He is the co-author of the chapter on Hepatobillary and Gastrointestinal Disturbances and Anesthesia in Nagelhout’s Nurse Anesthesia.



Unites States Department of State page on Chad:


Corbett, S., Fikkert, B.  (2012) When helping hurts: how to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor… and yourself.  Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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4 comments on “#29 – Anesthesia in Chad, Africa: Part 1 – Mason McDowell, DNAP, CRNA
  1. Luke Glaude says:

    Very great story, I’m gonna listen to this podcast again!! I’m living in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and working as a Registered Nurse. There are so many similarities with our stories. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania and learned many of the same lessons of living in Africa and learning the language, culture, etc. (lots of beans and rice and getting malaria!!). I once did a lesson with a cow heart for a biology class. I wrapped up the heart in a bag and was about to throw it out as I had used it for a couple days. Needless to say a fight broke out amongst the students about who would take the heart home for dinner.

    I did Peace Corps when young and single. Now I have a daughter, she was born here last month. I have been thinking heavily of going to CRNA school because of my recent experiences here. would love to connect more and talk about working in Africa as a Registered Nurse and Nurse Anesthetist.

    • admin says:

      Luke, thanks for the comment! I would be happy to chat with you any time – instant message, FaceTime, Skype – just let me know. I would encourage you to go to CRNA school. It’s a huge commitment but it opens so many doors! The step from working as a RN to CRNA is a big one and worth it in every way. I really appreciate hearing your story from Tanzania – the heart story is crazy! Best wishes! – Jon

  2. Jessica Novak says:

    I just finished listening to part I and II – wow. This is part of why I wanted to get into nurse anesthesia and it is goal of mine to do this kind of work. Hoping to do a trip as an SRNA (and continue during my practice); I would definitely be interested in getting more information regarding Dr. McDowell’s experiences abroad. Really powerful story.

    • admin says:

      Thanks, Jessica! He’s a great CRNA and fascinating person. He still works with WCU as adjunct faculty in Asheville, NC. I’m sure they could put you in touch with him. Thanks for your comment here and good luck with school! – Jon

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