Donating surgeries, teaching doctors in underdeveloped countries - FOX 13 News

Donating surgeries, teaching doctors in underdeveloped countries

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Valley doctors are working together to treat patients in underdeveloped countries who can't afford a simple procedure on their own.

The organization, which was created just a few months ago, is called One-for-One Doctors.

This is Erwin, a little boy in the Philippines, who recently had cataract surgery to help him see.

And Melanie. Surgery helped correct her club feet.

This child suffered from a cleft pallet until surgeons were able to operate. The procedures were paid for in part by Dr. Ben Donovan, a pediatric urologist here in Phoenix.

"Any of the reconstructive surgeries I do, I feel, deserve to be able to help reconstructive surgery for someone else," says Dr. Donovan.

Donovan performs dozens of surgeries weekly, changing the lives of local patients. He's now doing the same for the underprivileged in other countries, thanks to an organization called One-For-One Doctors.

"That's the kind of thing as a surgeon, you love to see how you can impact the patients," says Dr. Robert Cohen.

Dr. Robert Cohen, a board certified plastic surgeon in Scottsdale, designates the majority of his surgeries as a "one for one."

Dr. Cohen knows the need for this assistance firsthand. He spent part of his residency in North Vietnam. He performed 3 to 5 surgeries a day on children with cleft lips and pallets.

"It was really very very strong impact on me, as far as just being able to see these kids coming in, especially in Vietnam. They're very ostracized for their deformities and the families were affected by these really didn't have a quality life at that point," says Dr. Cohen.

"We do four types of surgeries we do cataract, cleft lip and pallet, club foot surgeries and some types of heart surgeries," says Paul Heapy, founder of One-for-One.

The creative mind behind the program is Paul Heapy, whose young son needed surgery to correct a minor deformity.

It hit him that other children who need the same operation might not be able to afford it. Heapy says One-for-One is more effective because in the long run more people get help.

"It's a huge logistical effort to try to go over to another country, work with foreign governments to go and perform procedures for a week. Let's say it's a very noble thing, don't get me wrong, but it's logistically difficult. It's expensive and the doctors can't be there for follow up care, so what we are doing is we are building the doctors' practices in these local communities so they can do more and more to help the underserved."

The premise behind One-for-One Doctors is simple. The six doctors that are part of the organization designate a procedure as a One-for-One procedure. They sponsor a humanitarian surgery with a portion of their proceeds. There is no cost to the patient.

Patients are not told about their participation until after they're in recovery. Jorge Vargas' 14-month-old son George received a certificate from Dr. Donovan.

"I'm personally very excited about this program. I feel that I am almost doubling the amount of lives I can help touch and people I can help around the country and so I'm excited about it," says Dr. Donovan.

Dr. Donovan has already performed 30 One-for-One surgeries since the outreach started in June.

Dr. Cohen has sponsored hundreds.

"For me when I am able to provide these surgeries for these kids, even though I am not doing the surgery myself, knowing that we are enabling surgeons in third world countries to perform literally over the course of the years, it could be hundreds of thousands of these surgeries… just through my patients obviously that makes me really happy as a surgeon," says Dr. Cohen.

One-for-One works with a network clinics and physicians designated to perform these surgeries. Colleagues in countries like the Philippines that help put a smile on the face of a child -- that might not have stood a chance.

The six doctors that are part of One-for-One perform pro bono work here in the valley as well in an effort to help those who can't afford medical attention.

It hopes to expand its network of doctors so that more people can be helped.


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