One World Surgery Needs Volunteer Consults
Physicians in the US who sign up would work with local physicians in Honduras and the DR
BY SAHELY MUKERJI | OCTOBER 2020
Like the rest of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Honduras and the Dominican Republic (DR), the two countries where One World Surgery (OWS) sends its medical mission teams. The organization has a surgery center in Honduras, the Holy Family Surgery Center, and has started construction on a new facility in the DR.
“The health and safety of our patients, volunteers and team are our top priorities and because of this One World Surgery has made a decision to cancel or postpone medical mission trips,” says Claire Cunningham, chief executive officer of the organization. “Our team continues to monitor the global situation, and any changes to future trips will be communicated via email to registered volunteers four to six weeks prior to the trip start date.”
While the missions are on hold, OWS needs physician volunteers to provide virtual consults to patients in Honduras and the DR, says Maria Doria, medical missions manager of OWS. “There is an opportunity for US physicians to collaborate with our bilingual local physicians in Honduras and the DR,” she says. “In the DR, our local physician may request a second opinion on care plans for patients with chronic conditions. In Honduras, we are using virtual consults to clear patients for surgery. The local physicians share their assessments of the patients, as well as their medical history and exam results, with the US physician volunteers who review them and decide whether a patient is healthy enough for surgery.”
For its DR patients, OWS needs primary care providers to review cases with the local OWS physician. For virtual consults in Honduras, OWS needs primary care providers who can provide surgical clearance, anesthesia providers to support local anesthesia techs on surgical days and orthopedic surgeons specializing in upper and lower extremities. “We plan to eventually expand the program to include general surgery and other specialties,” Doria says.
To sign up, complete an initial application. Once the application is approved, OWS will send an approval email with a link to an external scheduling application. This is where you will sign up for your volunteer shifts. Return to the external scheduling site to sign up for additional future shifts.
Write OWS or 847.267.3539 with additional questions.
Local Care Continues
Locally, OWS is working with its teams to continue its care services. “In the DR, we recently hired a local primary care physician (PCP) and she has been going out to the communities to do home visits,” Doria says. “She has a team of health promoters who do health education with patients. We also have one local PCP, two health promoters, a patient assistance coordinator, and a program coordinator.” As of August, the Honduran surgery center of OWS—that has more than 20 people on staff—resumed performing a limited number of surgeries, she says. “We have a local orthopedic surgeon there. We are also beginning to develop relationships with local surgeons and just recently, developed relations with an ophthalmologist who will be providing pro bono services to OWS.”
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the hospitals in Honduras and the DR were already under resourced, Doria says; now, amidst the pandemic, providing adequate care has become even more challenging. “The safety precautions that we are having to take mean we are limiting the number of staff and patients in the facility at one time. Despite these challenges we continue to offer care, and more volunteers to virtually clear patients for surgery would be of great help now.”
Other than medical missions, OWS also offers an education program through which it provides education to its local teams. “We are turning our education program virtual,” Doria says. “Over the past few years, we have done a series of workshops for local anesthesia techs and will turn those virtual for future sessions.”
New Center in the DR
“Our success in Honduras demonstrates that we play a vital role in addressing global health inequities in under-resourced communities,” Cunningham says. “We are making a deliberate and prudent strategic decision to expand to the Dominican Republic—a country with pressing needs among Dominicans and Haitian immigrants.”
The organization conducted a needs assessment in the DR and began hosting mobile primary care missions in fall 2019 to address acute and chronic health conditions of patients in the surrounding communities. “We are excited about our expansion and the impact One World Surgery, together with our local partners, will have on surgical and primary care in the Dominican Republic,” Cunningham says.
Construction has begun on the second facility which will include a surgery center, a primary care clinic and a visitor center in the Dominican Republic. The facility will be located between Santo Domingo and Punta Cana on the property of its partner, Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH).
“We have signed the contract for the new facility at DR and are working with a local construction firm,” Doria says. The facility will be 25,000 square feet. “In the first phase, the visitor center and the primary care clinic will open, and we anticipate that to be completed by the second half of 2021. In the second phase, the surgery center will be completed in 2022.”
ASCA has made a contribution to the $6 million capital campaign for the new center. “One World Surgery is incredibly grateful for our partnership with ASCA who has played a key role in expanding our impact over the years by engaging volunteers, providing strategic direction and financially supporting both Honduras and Dominican Republic,” Cunningham says.