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High Rewards in Surgery

Annie Grossinger

Mr. Isidro Ramirez, accompanied by his daughter, is recovered thanks to Dr. Steve Charous (right) and the global health team.

Mr. Isidro Ramirez, accompanied by his daughter, is recovered thanks to Dr. Steve Charous (right) and the global health team.

It’s a warm sunny day in the mountains of Peralta, Dominican Republic.  Like most days, music permeates the colorful streets.  Residents pull out plastic chairs and sit in front of their homes, waving to one another as they pass by.  But today is no ordinary day for Mr. Isidro Ramirez, whose ability to breathe has become nearly impossible.  Something is blocking the airflow into his trachea.  Swallowing is nearly impossible, and he has lost 30 pounds.

Mr. Ramirez had massive nasal polyps and his frail body was a testament to how long he had been suffering. It was Dr. Steve Charous, an ENT surgeon, who performed the life-saving surgery at the Peralta Sub-centro de Salud.  Dr. Charous was on his first trip to Peralta with Community Empowerment through their partnership with Rush University. Now, not only can Mr. Ramirez live, he can do so in comfort.

Mr. Ramirez's experience is not unique.  Approximately 300 high-reward surgeries were performed last year in the fields ofOrthopedic, ENT, General Surgery, Urology, Pelvic Reconstruction and Gynecology. Most remarkably, all the patients are doing well. 

For many, we offer the only affordable surgical option.  The demand is high, most patient waiting months to years for basic surgeries. Some surgical specialties, such as ENT, are not available at all. Fortunately, several new surgeons have joined this past year.  Additionally, we continue to receive residents from multiple surgical specialties, who get to learn and serve in an inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural context.

As we begin to sunset our primary care program in Peralta, having achieved nearly complete self-sustainability through a partnership with the Ministry of Health, the surgical program continues to be a significant focus.  A third shipping container, provided by Project C.U.R.E. and filled with surgical equipment and dispensable supplies, will assist with capacity building at Taiwan Hospital in Azua.  This will enable our local surgical colleagues and CE volunteers to treat many more patients like Mr. Ramirez. 

- Stephanie Crane