By: Bridget Boyd Issue: Transformation Section: Community
A Joint Effort Transforms Lives in Veracruz, Mexico
You’ve probably heard of short-term medical mission trips where teams of doctors visit a developing nation, provide medical care, return home and then typically select a new location the following year. While these missions are a well-established and popular means of providing health care to poor countries, Dr. Michael Christie, orthopedic surgeon and co-founder of the Nashville-based Southern Joint Replacement Institute (SJRI), wanted to take this approach a step further.
Annually, more than $250 million and countless volunteer hours are dedicated to these types of trips, but Dr. Christie decided that by committing to one medical facility, the health care infrastructure of a place could be transformed and the dependency on humanitarian aid lessened, if not altogether omitted. “It’s more than just going down and doing mission trips; we’re trying to create a workable model that could be replicated in other countries and in other clinics,” explained Dr. Christie.
With the help of PROJECT C.U.R.E., the Colorado-based nonprofit organization that collects and redistributes donated medical supplies to ill-equipped hospitals and clinics in more than 120 developing countries, the Veracruz Regional Hospital de Alta Especialidad in Veracruz, Mexico, was selected. Here, medical services are rudimentary by U.S. standards, and many citizens are unable to receive orthopedic surgery because they lack funding. Even if they could afford it, the hospital is not equipped with the proper medical supplies and equipment to address the majority of orthopedic cases they receive. “Knee replacements are rare in Mexico, particularly outside of Mexico City. Last year our practice did 2,000 joint replacements. We were told that less than 10 were done in Veracruz,” said Dr. Christie.
Because of the need in Veracruz, twice a year for the next 10 years PROJECT C.U.R.E. and Dr. Christie along with his team of SJRI surgeons will return to Veracruz Hospital and deliver health and hope every time. For PROJECT C.U.R.E.’s part, they will put a 40-foot semitruck container of medical supplies and equipment in place—nearly $3 million worth of donations—for the SJRI team to use. On each two-week mission, orthopedic surgeries will be performed and new techniques will be taught to the Mexican physicians, residents, nurses, scrub techs and staff so they can continue this work and take over the work in the intermediate term.
Dr. Christie’s team provided some of the most complicated knee replacement surgeries imaginable during their first trip in November 2011. After just 10 days on the ground, the team conducted more surgeries than the hospital performed in an entire year, and patients could walk, some without pain, for the first time in their lives.
“At the end of the 20 joint replacement missions, the health care landscape in this part of the world will forever be changed,” said Dr. Douglas Jackson, president and CEO of PROJECT C.U.R.E. “Leftovers from our hospitals here in the United States—the things we don’t use—will become a foundation for the future for hundreds of people who would likely have no other hope.” he continued.
Going forward, the medical teams in Nashville and Veracruz will continue to collaborate to transform the lives of patients and build a strong health infrastructure in a place of need.
To learn more about Dr. Christie’s work or the Walk Strong Foundation, visit http://www.walkstrongfoundation.org/.