LCHM Summer 2017 - 17

L C M E D S O C .O R G

A Tale of T
Surgical Mis



here were well over 150 patients and
After years of hearing inspirational stories from
family members in the tiny waiting area my general surgeon father who has traveled with
of the Honduran hospital that Sunday the WSF since 2007, I asked to join him on a trip
afternoon, hoping to be signed up for to Honduras in 2013. I was a full-time psychology
surgery. If they didn't get surgery that week, while major at Penn State at the time. I wanted to go
the surgeons from central Pennsylvania's World because my father made the missions sound so
Surgical Foundation (WSF) were in town, they exciting and gratifying and because it would be
would probably never get the care they needed. an excellent opportunity for me to study the
So, many faces showed anxiety - but they also psychological effects of scarce medical care in a
showed hope and gratitude.
Third World country. With the blessing of my
professors, I was prepared to help in any way
Surgeons of various specialties had sign-up possible, while also gathering information for
areas, and patients and family members waited one of my psych classes.
patiently in line to get on the surgery schedule.
My father and another general surgeon signed
This was my father's seventh or eighth mission.
people up for gall bladders, thyroid surgery, I would join him again in Honduras, one of the
hernia repairs and more. Our group's plastic poorest countries in the world, the following year.
surgeon, pediatric surgeon, neurosurgeon, Both missions were in San Pedro Sula, the second
vascular surgeon and obstetrician/gynecologist largest city in Honduras, considered the "murder
scheduled as many patients as they thought they capital of the world" until Caracas, Venezuela took
could safely operate on in the coming week. It over that dubious honor in 2016. Poverty and
looked like there were probably more patients unemployment are rampant following a hurricane
than our volunteers could handle in only five almost 20 years ago which devastated the banana
days - even if the days were 12-14 hours long. plantations, the loss of most manufacturing and
But they would do the best they could.
pervasive organized crime. Most people don't
have access to adequate water or sanitation. The
nation is plagued by malnutrition, AIDS, malaria,

typhoid, infectious and parasitic diseases, high
infant mortality and low life expectancy. Medical
care for anyone who can't afford the high prices
is almost nonexistent. The people in the waiting
room had reason to be anxious - if the American
doctors didn't get to them, they would go back
home without treatment, no matter how sick
they were.
Once a year, the World Surgical Foundation
brings a "medical brigade" to Honduras, in
addition to trips to other medically underserved
nations. The World Surgical Foundation (www. was founded by
Drs. Domingo and Veneranda Alvear, a pediatric
surgeon and anesthesiologist who emigrated to
the U.S. from the Philippines. Since 1997, WSF's
volunteer surgeons have performed over 5,000
free surgeries in Honduras, the Philippines, India,
Ethiopia, Ecuador, Haiti and Thailand. A trip
to Nigeria is planned in November.
The teams of 20-30 physicians, nurses, surgical
residents and other volunteers use vacation time
and pay their own way to participate. Donated
supplies and equipment are sent to mission
Continued on page 18
SUMMER 2017 | Lehigh County Health & Medicine 17


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of LCHM Summer 2017

LCHM Summer 2017 - 1
LCHM Summer 2017 - 2
LCHM Summer 2017 - 3
LCHM Summer 2017 - 4
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