We. love. our. Board.

What a year it has been thus far. Last year we found ourselves delving into plans that we hope will help sustain our little mission family and work for a long time. We have formed and developed a strong board of amazing folks. We are so grateful for all of them. Here is a little bit about each of them….

Ricky Zalamea, my brother, also a Thoracic Radiologist and logical thinker

Don Guimera, planner extraordinaire and Chair of our Fundraiser Gala Committee

John Shorb a trusted friend a colleague from both the art and non profit sector

Dr Carmelita Teeter, a volunteer from time ago and also a retired Psychiatrist

Dr Connie Babu, a passionate Anesthesiologist and family friend from the days of my childhood

Rob Conley, CRNA, one of our beloved long time volunteers who has been with the family from the beginning

Dr Tom Knipe, similarly has been with us for years, and began with us when he was still in training

Uncle Andy Eugenio, and while we may not be blood related, he is still an Uncle of mine, and is retired as a graphic designer from Fed Ex. He puts together beautiful materials that help us tell our story

Matt Ducklo, has a career in photography and owns Tops Gallery in Memphis, an excellent set of two spaces for various forms of contemporary art. He always has an eye on how we can better present ourselves to the larger community and he is also now my handsome husband!

Dr Van Alstine is a dear long time mission family member who has joined us on mission with his wife, Marcia, as an anesthesiologist. He has one of the most important jobs on the board and serves as our Board Treasurer

Dr Sam Verzosa is an internist here in Memphis who is a supporter of the mission, confidant and continually gives use wise counsel

Jeneba Winfrey-Porter is a dear colleague from the non-profit realm, wise in strategy and disciplined in process. She is our Board Secretary and a valued member of the team.

We have several valued board consultants and advisors as well who have committed to help us along the way:

Mark Crosby, a dear friend, is our counsel and serves as the mission Board attorney

Ken Waxman, a mentor and mission family member since residency in Santa Barbara, is an examiner for international JCAHO and has been our guide in design and build of our mission hospital

James Ferguson is a Certified Public Accountant who has been a friend of the mission from the beginning as well. He has assisted us and continues to assist in all things having to do with our accounting, policies and procedures and tax reporting.

Why the long update? Well, life has been busy, and time has been moving along quickly.  We understand that this group started for a reason, that we were called to serve for a particular purpose, and that this commitment extends past our individual lives and lifetimes. In order to help facilitate the sustainability of our humble organization, and the work and services that we provide, we knew we needed to get organized, defined and delegate responsibility and opportunity.

Even more so now as we head into the next phase of our mission life, we are SO grateful for those of you who are with us. We are grateful for those who were with us in the beginning, in helping us vision, and being by mom and dad as they did the seemingly impossible. That effort has enabled our little mission group to provide over $17.2M worth of free surgical services to the poor in the Philippines since 1999. Their ongoing perspective and wisdom and spirit enables us to get up and do this again every day. We are grateful for those who has more recently joined us, for sharing in our vision and for maybe helping us see things through varying lenses. We hope to be humble, nimble, open and caring in everything that we do in and through our little mission group.

We are honored and excited to be a part of something so special and a group so passionate, and to be looking towards a better surgical future with our partners in the Philippines.

 

 

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Global Surgery, University of Tennessee and an upcoming mission!

We have so much to report on, friends! But, I will keep it brief.

First, we are embarking on our next mission to serve the community of Iligan, Mindanao, Philippines in the coming month! We are so excited to serve this community, who has been waiting for us, as they initially experienced travesty and tragedy in 2011. Frequently, communities require immediate response with emergency type relief after such a disaster.

Check out the news post here: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/45721519/ns/weather/t/nearly-dead-after-philippines-typhoon-disaster-agency-reports/

We help in this disaster relief as much as possible. But as you are aware, our gifts are more of the ongoing variety, with our offered help in the area of surgery and medical care, long-delayed due to economic, social and resource barriers.

The community of Iligan has been preparing for us and others for the past 4 years, rebuilding and creating infrastructure to be able to receive and benefit from our investment of time, resources and care. We are so excited to respond to their stated need, and hope to assist in their long-term vision of care for their community.

Speaking of long term work, for the past year and a half, we (the Zalamea Fam) have been visioning, discussing, collecting ideas and in general, praying and listening, to ways in which we might be able to progress our work, or even focus it, on a single community for the purpose of long-term investment. This could look like many things, but in our minds and hearts, would be a way for us to bring the best of what we have to the table, be it relationships, physical resources, infrastructure, or direct care. The dream would be to bring all of the aforementioned to a single center, developed and built by the mission group, and designed for and with a single community.

Would it be a hospital? Or would it be a surgery center? Would it be a clinic? I think the answer to this is dependent on the needs of the community chosen. It would depend on the immediate needs, as well as the long-term challenges. We know from our public health friends that the ultimate determinants of health are not just biology, genetics and life choices. We know that life CHANCES, shaped by the social circumstances of education, work, social place and setting, as well as physical environment, all play an important role in the ultimate health of a community down to the individual level.

So, if we were to build say, a surgery center, and conduct multiple surgical and medical missions each year, could this recurring theme ultimately influence the long term health of a community? We think it could, and this would be a place to start. But, we wouldn’t want to begin there. We would want to build a facility that would immediately be capable of doing more, and for more people, but begin in a most humble way. Through friendships and agreements, we would want to grow to deliver more comprehensive care as deemed necessary by the community.

We would want to engage in educational partnerships for the benefit of training and inspiring learning surgeons and physicians to ultimately take over and replace us. In fact, this partnership is already beginning. With my work at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, we are launching a Global Surgery Initiative, with the goals of providing infrastructure, mission/vision, and growth opportunities for all within UTHSC to engage in and learn from international work for the underserved. We would match this US-based educational partnership with a Philippines-based partnership as well.

The mission hospital would be a convener of ideas, care, and innovation for the poor. But more importantly, it would be a place where we can serve, stay true to our mission, and bring the best of what the Lord has given us! We would hope that by building such a facility in a place of particular need, we would invite others to join us: industry, technology, education, early childhood development and care, faith communities, etc.

Where do we begin? We begin where we currently stand. We start with the relationships and the communities we have been serving for the past 17 years. We begin by continuing the conversations with our friends from medical device industries, medical and surgical education, civic organizations, faith based friends, volunteers, and most importantly, the communities we have been serving.

Excitedly, and with much anticipation, therefore, we will be doing site visits to 3-4 communities in the Philippines after this next mission. We will present a map of possibilities, which will include every relationship and possibility we have explored and from whom we have received positive feedback and support. We will then listen. We will listen for a common vision and mission. We will listen for mutual respect. We will listen for a community that is committed to solidarity with the poor, with compassion and empathy. We will listen for a place to call the mission home.

Day 1/2: Set-up

So I completely neglected to write about yesterday’s screening clinic!

It felt like Day 2, but it was still Day 1, or Saturday:)

John and I had our pre-surgery GSurg clinic where we saw all of the folks who had been screened for General Surgery, both medically, and socioeconomically. Our partnerships with the wonderful local public health practitioners is clutch. They help us make sure we are serving the need.

A little background here. Negros Occidental, or the Western half of the island that we are on has endemic thyroid disease, primarily due to iodine deficiency. On my last research, as of 1983, over 70% of the 12 year olds in school were severely iodine deficient! This improved in 1998, which were the last stats I found. But the challenge around thyroid goiters remains.

So not surprisingly, many of our patients needed help with their thyroid goiters. These procedures can be super challenging, due to the vascularity (think lots of blood supply, so higher risk of bleeding) and the sheer size of them. Our record last year was a 15 cm thyroid lobe!

The other patients had primarily challenges with hernias. Many of them have been waiting YEARS for help with their challenges. We even had one patient that had seen us on our last mission in 2010. We did a hemithyroidectomy (removed half of her thyroid gland), but the other side enlarged and was starting to give her trouble. Because these tend to be challenging operations, and because she had not yet tried medication, we recommended that over surgery. If she had the operation, she had the risk of being on lifelong medication. And…if it is a decision she has to make, she would choose food and water over medicine, like all of us would.

I had a special moment in my heart honestly, running this clinic with my friend and colleague John ( I know, go ahead, roll your eyes), but it is a super special thing to be able to serve together. Not every day does this happen!!!!:) And to see Amber Rose and Tina working together tho figure out how to make our operating rooms work….and then to see our instruments from our last mission, organized and labeled by a surgeon that came with us last year, Jig Deneve, another fave of mine!

The local staff had to interpret for us as they spoke a completely different dialect from Tagalog, but good news was that with the little courtesy phrases I knew, they were understood as my attempt to show respect. Hoorah!

Remarkably we finished set-up on Saturday afternoon. We opened our blessed MAP International boxes, cleaned our beautiful Scanlan instruments, organized our Santa Barbara surgical supplies, sorted drains and prep from Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon, and distributed our Ethicon sutures between rooms. And of course all of this was shipped with the funds from our GoFundMe campaign supporters. What a family of support we are!

So much to be grateful for. So blessed to have such a tight mission family. You all are with us. 🙂