Our Story

Operation Airway began in 2007

when Dr. Natan Noviski, the former head of the MGHfC Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and Dr. Christopher Hartnick brought a small team of health care providers to Quito, Ecuador to operate on a small number of children with tracheostomies in order to teach this form of complex surgery and show the type of care necessary for these children to safely go from the operating rooms, to the PICU, to the hospital wards, and finally to home.

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This team approach involving surgeons, intensivists, anesthesiologists, nurses, respiratory therapists, and speech pathologists is unique in its focus on the teaching of multi-disciplinary care and its focus on matching international doctor with local doctor, nurse with nurse, therapist with therapist, etc.

The end goal is to build a sustainable local program capable of performing these complex surgeries on their own and then caring for them afterwards, such that the International team would no longer be needed after 3-5 years.   

So far we have “graduated” two programs, one in Ecuador and one in the Dominican Republic, with more to follow.

Once Dr. Noviski retired, Dr Phoebe Yager became both the chief of the MGHfC PICU and the co-director of Operation Airway and Evelyn Zablah became the Global Coordinator of OA. 

With their additions the focus of OA expanded not only towards teaching pediatric airway surgery and care in a multi-disciplinary team approach, but moreover to conduct education research and curriculum implantation to move upstream to address issues that would lead to complications before they arose.

The current study of teaching how to choose the appropriate size breathing tube for patients intubated in the local PICUs, how to tape them appropriately and how to adequately sedate these children, and how this may actually affect not only accidental extubations but also length of stay as well overall Pediatric mortality in these PICUs, has emerged from this expansion of the mission of Operation Airway.