Mission Update: Philippines 2013 – A Calling to Order

February 26, 2013

Monday was the first day of surgeries for the World Surgical Foundation mission in Coron, Palawan. The team arrived on schedule and spent much of the morning working out the logistics of the hospital, assigning duties for the volunteers and locating all of the equipment and supplies stored in various rooms.

Surgeries were scheduled to begin at 8:00 AM but many of the patients arrived later due to the long distances they had to travel. Other surgeries were delayed because patients did not fast 6-8 hours prior to their operations requiring anesthesia. Something as simple as a chicken nugget or the regular feeding of a baby pushed procedures off until the afternoon or next day.

OB/GYN cases were the first to begin at 8:30 AM with general following at 9:30. Pediatric and plastic surgery cases could not start until 1:30 PM waiting for the patients who ate or drank to be ready. But by the end of the day only one pediatric case had to be rescheduled. In total 77 procedures were performed including 42 minor surgeries, 22 OB/GYN plus 13 plastic and pediatric surgeries.

Remember to Like Us on Facebook and read the Philippines 2013 Blog written by our resident blogger, Jennifer Prudencio!

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Mission Status: Philippines 2013 – Locked and Loaded

February 14, 2013

The World Surgical Foundation has shipped two 40 foot containers with equipment and supplies for hospitals where WSF will be stationed in the Philippines. The first container is bound for the Coron District Hospital in Coron, Palawan. WSF has donated needed medical supplies for up to 6 months as well as an electrosurgical generator, a pulse oximeter, two dental chairs and two anesthesia machines. The Dr. Fe Del Mundo Children’s Medical Center in Manila will receive the second container with an electrosurgical generator, a harmonic scalpel, an infant ventilator, two infant incubators, two dental chairs, two anesthesia machines and medical supplies. Each container is worth at least $100,000 and WSF is thankful for all the donations given by its partner organizations and contributors in this effort. And a special thanks goes out to all the warehouse volunteers without whom preparing these containers for shipment would be impossible.

WSF volunteers will embark on their next mission Thursday, 21 February 2013 winding their way across the globe to meet in Manila on Saturday, 23 February 2013 after crossing the International Date Line losing an entire day in the process. From there WSF will board local transport for Coron, Palawan. This mission at the Coron District Hospital will be World Surgical Foundations’s largest collaborative effort with WSF doctors being joined by an equal number of local doctors from the Philippines. WSF expects to screen 250 patients for the 5-day joint World Surgical Foundation and Philippine College of Surgeons mission from 24 to 28 February 2013.

Check back soon for updates and remember to Like Us on Facebook!

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Mission Update: Philippines 2013 – How to Adopt a Hospital

February 14, 2013

Sunday, 24 February 2013 was Day 1 of the World Surgical Foundation’s mission in the Philippines. After traveling for over 24 hours, not including the loss of a day thanks to the International Date Line, WSF volunteers were well rested and able to finish work that was started over a year before.

The World Surgical Foundation adopted Coron District Hospital on 4 December 2011 and this mission is the culmination of that endeavor. The 40 foot container sent to the hospital arrived in several truckloads. All of the boxed goods were already there when WSF arrived at the hospital on Sunday morning leaving two flatbeds filled with crates of all the heavy medical equipment. And since the hospital is located on a relatively undeveloped island in the Philippines there was no forklift. So with a hammer, a screwdriver and a lot of muscle, the doctors, nurses and volunteers along with local help unloaded the crates by hand and began to fully equip the hospital.

Coron District Hospital is the first hospital in the Philippines to be adopted by a foreign organization. WSF is using this hospital as a model for future adoptions to come. And this mission follows suit being the mold for the third and most important part of the World Surgical Foundation’s mission to collaborate. By adopting a hospital WSF is promising to be different than other medical organizations. Instead of doing drive-by missions to never return, WSF strives to make a real difference in the lives of the people they touch. Because WSF was able to send all the equipment that a modern hospital needs, Coron District Hospital can serve as a base for future missions not only by WSF but also by local Philippine doctors who can return with regularity.

Another part of collaboration is apparent with the equal contingent of local Philippine doctors on this surgical mission. By having local doctors come and join WSF, sustainable healthcare is achieved. Followup care is a must with many of the complicated, life-saving procedures performed by WSF so having local doctors available in the event of difficulties ensures patients will receive just that. And teaching the local doctors how to perform these same procedures makes it possible for WSF’s work to continue well beyond the dates of any given mission.

After finishing the setup of the ORs and stock rooms, Day 1 was complete. World Surgical Foundation did not have patients to screen because local doctors were able to do that before WSF arrived saving time and allowing our local counterparts to participate before the mission even began.

The day ended with a brief ceremony by Governor of Palawan, Abraham Kahlil B. Mitra, thanking the World Surgical Foundation for their generous donation, adopting the hospital and promising to continue providing needed help in the future.

Check back all week for updates and remember to Like Us on Facebook!

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Mission Wrap-up: India 2013 – By The Numbers

February 10, 2013

Friday, 25 January 2013, was the World Surgical Foundation’s last day in Khambhat, Gujarat, India serving patients of Cambay General Hospital at the 7-day Mega Surgical Camp.

WSF was able to perform at least 150 procedures with 141 accounted for as follows: 47 General Surgery, 31 Pediatric Surgery, 28 Plastic Surgery, 27 OB/GYN and 8 ENT. Some procedures were done under local anesthesia so patients went home without being counted.

On Friday morning WSF witnessed and participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Cardiac Cath Lab or Angioscopy Suite being built on hospital grounds.

The evening before WSF gathered with the hospital staff and a panel of doctors from the foundation along with the local hosts spoke briefly about the “Mega Surgical Camp”. Everybody agreed the mission was a great success and plans are being made for another one soon.

Friday night was definitely one of the highlights of the mission as WSF attended a celebration at the town square organized by the “Press Club Khambhat” for “Republic Day”. WSF was honored by the Press Club for holding the Mega Surgical Camp at Cambay General Hospital. The camp was locally supported by the Cardiac Care Center and Cambay General Hospital.

The next mission for the World Surgical Foundation will be 21 February to 2 March 2013 in Coron, Palawan, Philippines. Updates to follow…

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Mission Update: India 2013 – Business As Usual

January 23, 2013

Today is Thursday, Day 6. Mission Days 3, 4 and 5 have already come and gone. Approximately 110 surgeries have been performed successfully to date with 2 days left on the mission.

Business as usual for the World Surgical Foundation is not always smooth sailing. Even though WSF has been going on missions for over 15 years, each one has it’s own set of difficulties that need to be solved as they arise.

The first major problem on this mission was that WSF failed to bring two portable anesthesia machines for backup because there were not enough general anesthesia machines. We were expecting 4 general anesthesia machines but upon arrival it turned out there were 3 available and only 2 were in full working order with the 3rd one missing its vaporizer.

But this became a “blessing in disguise” because we had to perform pediatric procedures using spinal anesthesia instead of general which we have never done before. And as a result our patient output increased thanks to a shorter turnover time. Pediatric patients under general take approximately 25-30 minutes to wake up before the next case can be started. Spinal on the other hand takes only 10 minutes or less to go into PACU. This discovery will help future missions because now we can use spinal anesthesia in place of general allowing WSF to take care of more pediatric patients whether or not there are enough general anesthesia machines.

Another problem we face is our equipment breaking. Since WSF relies on donations, each machine is precious. But sometimes machines will stop working unexpectedly. On the first day of surgery we lost two machines. The first one to go was our SurgiStat portable electro-surgical generator. More than likely somebody plugged it directly into a local power source but since this machine only operates at 110V, it didn’t stand a chance smoking itself at the first opportunity. Better labeling and having a step-down transformer packed with the machine will be our saving grace next mission. But the biggest loss this trip has been the Ultracision harmonic scalpel, a very costly unit. Dr. Alvear was able to perform 3 cases with the harmonic before it could no longer do its job. Why it stopped working is still a mystery that can only be solved when we bring the unit back to the United States.

The loss of both of these machines does not mean we cannot continuing working. Thankfully hospitals in the US throw away battery operated pencil tip cautery instruments after one use which is a huge waste. WSF accepts and resterilizes these once-used instruments for missions as they last a long time past the first use. We were able to use these instruments in place of the larger machines and there were also two local electro-surgical generators available to go along with the one remaining unit we brought. The local surgeons now want WSF to leave whatever pencil tip cautery instruments are still usable and we promised to send them more in the near future along with another electro-surgical generator.

There are 40 or so cases left to do by Friday unless more come out of the woodwork. Today looks like it’s going to be the busiest day of the week since we are finishing up early tomorrow to pack.

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Mission Update: India 2013 – Moving Like The Wind

January 22, 2013

Day 2 of the mission ended at 5:30 PM with a quick and chaotic ride to the beach for Dariyai (seashore) Uttarayan. Uttarayan occurs on the 14th or 15th of January when the sun begins to travel northward and rise earlier. Indians of all ages in the state of Gujarat celebrate Uttarayan with a festival of kites from dawn until dusk. On the first Sunday following the 14th, citizens of Khambhat gather at the seashore for Dariyai Uttarayan. Here you can see thousands of people, young and old, rich and poor, Hindu and Muslim, flying kites of all shapes, sizes and colors together in one place.

As the sun was setting bonfires of fallen kites started to appear all over the beach and fireworks were shot off in celebration. Sky lanterns were also being launched and littered the night like fireflies. Darkness fell upon us and the mass of humanity started working their way home so we followed suit returning to the guest house for a rooftop dinner before turning in for a well deserved rest.

Remember to read India Mission 2013 for interviews, daily photos and posts by WSF Secretary, Cheryl Peck. And don’t forget to Like Us on Facebook!

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Mission Update: India 2013 – Hitting The Ground Running

January 20, 2013

The World Surgical Foundation mission to India is well underway. All participants have made it safely to India whether by transatlantic flight through Abu Dhabi or via polar route to Dubai arriving at Ahmedabad Airport around 3 to 4 AM Saturday morning local time.

We traveled by bus to Khambhat going directly to Cambay General Hospital. Upon arrival we had a small breakfast, familiarized ourselves with the hospital layout and separated medical bags from personal ones before going to the “Guest House” for a short rest and freshening up. There was little time to waste as screening, unpacking and setup was scheduled for that afternoon. All available patients were screened and the ORs and supply room were set up by 5 PM. We returned “home” for another respite before dinner at 8 PM and Day 1 in India was complete.

Day 2 began this morning at 6:30 AM. The short ride to the hospital was quicker due to the lack of pre-dawn traffic as the bustling street in front of the guest house was empty as a ghost town. All patients scheduled were ready to go so after a quick breakfast surgeries started at 9 AM. Screening will continue this afternoon between 3 and 5 PM to fill out the week. Lunch will be served shortly at 12:30 PM before the surgery day continues…

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Mission Update: India 2013 – Time Travel Begins

January 17, 2013

Doctors, nurses and volunteers of the World Surgical Foundation embark today, 17 January 2013, for Ahmedabad Airport in India. WSF will hold a surgical camp at Cambay General Hospital, Khambhat, Gujarat, India from 19 through 25 January 2013. Approximately 250 patients are scheduled for surgery. Cambay General Hospital is a non-profit hospital and operates for indigent and poor patients under Section 80G.

Check back here for news updates as the mission progresses. You can also check in with World Surgical Foundation Secretary, Cheryl Peck, on her blog. Click here for interviews and daily entries from Cheryl.

Thank you all for your support and remember to Like Us on Facebook!

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Mission Central Warehouse Closings 2013

December 30, 2012

The dates Mission Central is closed during 2013 are:


January 1 (Tuesday)

January 21 (Monday)

February 18 (Monday)

March 28 (Thursday)

March 29 (Friday)

April 1 (Saturday)

May 24 (Friday – close at noon)

May 25 (Saturday)

May 27 (Monday

July 4 (Thursday)

July 5 (Friday)

August 30 (Friday – close at noon)

August 31 (Saturday)

September 2 (Monday)

November 27 (Wednesday – close at noon)

November 28 (Thursday)

November 29 (Friday)

November 30 (Saturday)

December 23 (Monday)

December 24 (Tuesday)

December 25 (Wednesday)

December 26 (Thursday)

December 31 (Tuesday)

January 1, 2014 (Wednesday)

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United Way Honors Local Couple for Their Humanitarian Efforts

December 24, 2012

Alvear Photo.jpg

Drs. Domingo and Veneranda (Vennie) Alvear were recently honored with the 2012 Humanitarian Award from United Way of the Capital Region’s (UWCR) Tocqueville Society. They were recognized for their lifetime of inspirational leadership and outstanding commitment to improving lives locally and globally during a special reception, sponsored by M&T Bank and PinnacleHealth.

Domingo, chief of pediatric surgery for PinnacleHealth, and Vennie, an anesthesiologist with Riverside Anesthesia Associates Ltd., have woven their talents, intuition and compassion together to create a legacy of serving those in need, frequently the most vulnerable children and babies in our community and impoverished communities around the world.

For Domingo, the love of helping others through medicine came early in life while growing up in the Philippines. His uncle, a doctor, would take Domingo along in an old Army jeep to visit patients living in huts along the countryside. Domingo fondly remembers the compassion his uncle showed the ill during the darkest moments of their lives.

Perhaps one of the most influential moments in Domingo’s young life, came when his baby sister, Flordeliza arrived prematurely. While the other children in the family were hesitant to hold her, Domingo fed her using an eye-dropper and cared for her with compassion and understanding. Every time Domingo treats a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), he remembers caring for his sister decades ago. To date, Domingo has treated more than 10,000 babies and children in the United States and other countries.

Domingo and Vennie met in medical school in the Philippines, married and soon moved to the United States. Vennie became a pediatrician and then an anesthesiologist. The couple intended to return to the Philippines, but political unrest at the time prevented the move and they eventually moved to Harrisburg, started a family and began contributing to the well being of our community.

The couple’s shared commitment to the lives of children and the poor has served as a model for the way medical missions are carried out in Third World countries.

After participating in several medical mission trips, the couple noticed the education of professionals in their visiting countries was a valuable, yet missing component, of their missions. This led to the creation of the World Surgical Foundation (WSF) in 1997. WSF creates a comprehensive approach to patient care. They connect medical professionals and volunteers throughout the United States with hospitals in Third World countries. Their leadership has inspired volunteerism across the world and right here in our backyard, and includes not only the medical community, but the broader community.

The WSF solicits used hospital equipment and the donation of medical drugs to be used in their “adopted” hospitals. Medical supplies are shipped prior to the mission trip to ensure everything is in place when the physicians arrive. Physicians and volunteers work hand-in-hand with local professionals to teach them how to perform procedures and care for patients long after the WSF team has left the country. The goal of sustainability has created real and tangible results in Ecuador, Ethiopia, Haiti, Honduras, India, Thailand and the Philippines. Surgical visits are held several times a year with an average of 150 surgeries performed during each visit.

On November 3, 2012, the WSF held its 15th Annual Crystal Ball Gala to raise funds for future growth of the Foundation. In addition to this event, Domingo and Vennie served as honorary chairs of the 2012 “Star Light, Star Bright – Shine for a Child Tonight” Gala to support PinnacleHealth Children’s Fund.

While Domingo has a passion for medical work in Third World countries, the impact of his living legacy can be found right here in the Capital Region. When the couple moved to Harrisburg in July of 1973 there were no NICUs in the area. Thanks to Domingo’s creative approach to helping others, the first NICU opened in Harrisburg in 1978 at the Polyclinic Medical Center and Harrisburg Hospital. Decades later, PinnacleHeath’s NICU cares for nearly 500 babies annually from as young as 23 weeks to full-term infants with complex and medical issues.

In addition to his professional accomplishments, Domingo has served as President of the Polyclinic Medical Center, Dauphin County Medical Association, Society of Philippine Surgeons of America, board of the directors of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, Central Penn College and the PinnacleHealth Foundation. He has also served on the medical committees of the March of Dimes and Leukemia Society. He was awarded the Medical Champion by the March of Dimes on October 8, 2012.

“For the more than 30 years I’ve known them, Dom and Vennie have displayed a compassion for those less fortunate, both in our community and in the world,” said longtime friend Dean Weidner, Esq., of Wix, Wenger & Weidner, P.C., “They have worked very hard to develop, fund and find community support for the World Surgical Foundation. The Humanitarian Award is a very appropriate recognition of their lifetime efforts and achievements.”

Domingo and Vennie have taught thousands of people both first-hand and by example how to change and save lives. Dr. Fe Del Mundo a Pediatrician from the Philippines, who will be 100 years old on November 27, 2012, stated “I believe that if you can give the world the best you can, the best will always come back to you. I have done what is mine to do; now it is your turn to do what is yours.” UWCR was pleased to honor Drs. Domingo and Veneranda Alvear with the 2012 Humanitarian Award.

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