Extraordinary people at LHSC improve health around the world through volunteerism

April 17, 2011

World map
In celebration of national volunteer week, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) would like to salute the extraordinary staff and physicians who are helping to improve health care around the world through their personal volunteerism. 

“We are very proud to count many of our staff and physicians among the 12.5 million Canadians who dedicate their time to volunteer activities,” says Bonnie Adamson, president and CEO of LHSC. “We’re incredibly grateful for the hundreds of individuals who volunteer here at LHSC and are truly inspired by the many staff and physicians who in-turn, volunteer their time to improve health care delivery around the world.”

National volunteer week pays tribute to the millions of Canadian volunteers who graciously donate their time and energy. It is Canada’s largest celebration of volunteers, volunteerism and civic participation.

The following is a sample of some of the many ways our staff and physicians have volunteered their personal time to better the health of individuals across the world.

Performing cardiac surgeries in developing nations

Perfusionist Peter Allen has led a team of 20-30 dedicated doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists for the past four years as they travelled to hospitals of developing nations to assist, perform and teach open heart surgery to the local teams. In addition to its annual trek to Arequipa, Peru, the group has visited Ulan Bator, Mongolia and last year was invited to perform cardiac surgery in Taiyuan, China. Beyond their cardiac work, the group also provides an outreach program in the form of assistance to orphanages and medical clinics in the local communities they visit.

Establishing a medical clinic at a Honduran orphanage

Registered nurses Christine Rothera, Kathy McMillan, Heather Roch and Kim Pucci spent 10 days in Le Ceiba, Honduras in November 2011. As part of a larger 20-member team that was completing construction of an orphanage, the nurses worked to establish a medical clinic that would serve both the orphanage and the nearby community.

Cleft lip and palate surgery in the Tunisian Republic

Oral and maxillofacial surgeon Dr. Michael Shimizu was first invited to join a group of surgeons from Canada on a cleft lip and palate surgery mission in Tunisia back in 2001 and has journeyed back with the group each year since, with the exception of 2011 while the country was undergoing political unrest. The cleft lip and palate surgery mission is a multinational effort with surgical teams from Canada, Japan, Italy, the United States and Tunisia. This year's mission took place in the city of Sousse, along the eastern coast of Tunisia, at Sahloul Hospital where they performed cleft lip and palate surgeries, primarily in babies and children.

Aboard the Lifeline Express in India

As part of a special NGO-run mobile health care delivery program, Dr. Narayan Prasad, paediatric neurologist with a specialty in epileptic disorders in children, worked aside Dr. Mamta B. Singh, an adult neurologist from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, and her team in providing epilepsy education and treatment service for adults and children through a clinic run aboard a medical hospital/train called Lifeline Express. The program covers remote and distant under-serviced regions in India.

Advancing cardiac services in the Republic of Belarus

Vince Le Faive, biomedical engineering technologist, has joined LHSC cardiologists Dr. William Kostuk and Dr. Patrick Teefy on many of the cardiac medical missions to the Republic of Belarus that have taken place over the last 14 years. In his last nine visits to Minsk, Vince has been responsible for obtaining medical devices that have been replaced with new technologies from many hospitals in southwestern Ontario, which he then repairs, calibrates, functionally checks, ships and installs the devices while also training the doctors in Minsk on devices such as ultrasound machines, defibrillators, ECG recorders, pulse oximeters and cardiac bedside monitors. The work that has been carried out by Vince and the team of volunteers from LHSC’s cardiology and biomedical engineering departments has been instrumental in the development and advancement of invasive cardiac services in the Republic of Belarus and is part of a larger medical mission to improve medicine and applied medicine services there.

Improving a hospital pharmacy in Zimbabwe

Last summer, hospital pharmacist Venita Harris teamed up with a community pharmacist and three pharmacy students for two weeks to volunteer at Howard Hospital in Zimbabwe, Africa. The group worked closely with the hospital’s pharmacy, attended rounds, inventoried their expired medications to prepare them for disposal and conducted an educational session for the nursing staff on a number of pharmacy-related topics including minimizing wastage of medications with short expiry dating. Venita plans to return again to lend her assistance for another two weeks this summer.

Providing health records assistance in Roatan

Last year, health records coding specialist Linda Reynolds travelled to Roatan, a small island off the coast of Honduras to volunteer at a small clinic, maternity and neonatal hospital called Clinica Esperanza. She spent the week helping the local team consolidate their records and has subsequently been contributing to the development of new charting forms for the clinic.