Serving Patients Near & Far With Utu Humanitarian Alliance
An important part of being a surgeon is being able to help others. I have been regularly involved in charitable organizations since medical school, and giving back has always been an important part of my life. In medical school, I was a founding member of Doctor Ought to Care (D.O.C.), a community outreach program that helped the underprivileged with healthcare access and taught the importance of healthy lifestyle choices such as avoiding smoking. I also spent a lot of time at homeless shelters, administering and reading TB tests for the indigent population. During residency, as a plastic surgeon, I had the opportunity to travel to North Vietnam, to provide cleft lip and palate surgery for children who would otherwise be unable to have surgery.
Once in practice as a plastic surgeon in Scottsdale, my free time became very limited due to high patient demand, and as a result I focused on donating resources to breast cancer research and other similar charities. Despite this, I missed the opportunity to help underserved kids who needed surgical corrections. That is why, when I was called by Paul Heapy about the chance to become a founding member of a charity that did just that, I was extremely interested.
Initially called 1 for 1 Medical, the organization of which I am a founding surgeon is now called Utu Humanitarian Alliance. The brainchild of Paul Heapy, Utu Humanitarian Alliance is an organization that provides medical care such as cleft lip and palate corrections, club foot repairs, and congenital heart defect surgery to suffering patients in third-world countries. The way it works is that with every surgery I perform in the U.S., I completely fund one of these surgeries. In other words, every one of my patients is ultimately responsible for providing a full surgery for a third-world patient in need.
Together with my partner physicians, we developed Utu to help individuals throughout the third world in ways that other charity medical organizations typically overlook. Many people don’t realize that performing medical procedures in other countries is not as simple as temporarily setting up a surgical program in a local hospital. Often, there are other factors that need to be considered. These include:
- Costs associated with travel and equipment transportation
- Political resistance
- Language and cultural considerations
- Follow-up care
- Education and training of local surgeons
Flying into a country and setting up a few-week charitable surgery mission is wonderful, but with this program we enable the creation of a system where thousands of patients can be helped. I personally have funded more than a thousand surgeries, and I am just one surgeon in the group! With the knowledge and resources our charity provides to fortify medical infrastructure in the host country, our goal is to enable generations of patients to enjoy improved care for years to come.