por Diana Bradley
, Staff Writer | December 19, 2011
From the December 2011 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
Helping the helping hands
Along with sending equipment, Project C.U.R.E. also sends people to provide free medical aid in underserved countries through its C.U.R.E. Clinics program.
But due to time constraints, medical volunteers can be hard to enlist. In 2004, the American College of Surgeons established Operation Giving Back -- an initiative that strives to provide a supportive forum for volunteers through its website -- preserving outreach avenues, creating additional resources to facilitate surgeons’ involvement and recognizing volunteers’ contributions both towards individual patients and on a societal level.
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“Ultimately, the goal is that every surgical patient gets the safe, quality, timely, and appropriate care they require – this will be an ongoing challenge,” said Dr. Kathleen Casey, director of Operation Giving Back. “A more specific goal of OGB is to facilitate surgeons’ involvement, both internationally and in the U.S., towards this end.”
Many medical professionals consider volunteering integral to their professional identity, according to Casey. But barriers can prevent them from volunteering at various points in their lives.
“I speak to many surgeons who are not currently involved in these outreach activities, but would like to be,” Casey said. “We are working to define their barriers with an aim to reduce or remove them through advocacy and education. I think far more surgeons are involved or would like to be involved in these activities than are appreciated.”
To show its appreciation of ACS Fellows and members whose volunteer work has made a lasting impression, the ACS, in association with Pfizer, Inc., annually holds the Surgical Volunteerism and Humanitarian Awards. This year, Dr. Girma Tefera, MD, of Madison, WI, received the 2011 Surgical Volunteerism Award for international outreach in recognition of his contributions toward improving the delivery of surgical care in Ethiopia.
“There is an African proverb that says: ‘Man’s medicine is man,’” said Tefera. “Volunteer work in global health is a unique opportunity for an American health care worker to learn about different cultures, develop new friendships and most importantly, an opportunity to learn how to function in low-resource conditions and learn to appreciate what we have in this country.”
Louis L. Carter, MD, of Chattanooga, TN, won the 2011 Surgical Humanitarian Award in recognition of a lifetime of service to the underserved, spanning nearly five decades, 20 countries, and 74 mission trips. Carter has left a legacy of surgeons, nurses, and other medical professionals who are equipped with the knowledge and skills to care for hand injuries, burn contractures, cleft lips and palates, and other correctable debilitating conditions.