A Surgeon Explains Why He Does Missionary Work

November 27, 2015

The word 'surgeon' originates in the Greek "kheirourgia," a contraction of "kheir," which means hand, and "ergon," which means work. In other words, embodied in the word surgeon is the idea of action. What the word 'surgeon' does not properly capture are the ideas of compassion, charity, and civility. That's limiting. 

By common stereotype, surgeons are decisive, confident, and insular. They are seen as charged with commanding an obsequious team that carries out their orders. In this, the implication is that surgeons are worlds onto themselves, detached from the needs and sufferings of others as they cut, remove, and amputate.

This is not what we are seeing at Surgeo, a growing network of very highly accomplished, peer credentialed surgeons. What we are routinely seeing is that surgeons initiate efforts that broadly help others, from designing new treatments to designing the comprehensive surgery packages that Surgeo delivers. Indeed, Surgeo's original big idea was inspired by one surgeon's decision to help an American get a prostatectomy by taking him to Trinidad. "No barrier too high" may as well be the Surgeo surgeon's motto.

As we've built the network, we have repeatedly been stuck by just how many of our surgeons conduct missions to help people who cannot pay for services. For example, Hugo Ribot, MD, a Georgia based gynecological surgeon with expertise with laparoscopic hysterectomy, has gone on medical missions to Guatemala and Bolivia. And our founder has served in Kenya. 

One of our surgeons, Robert Valenzuela, MD, a New York based expert in penile implant surgery, started his own charity. In the last 12 years, through this charity he and others have delivered hydrocelectomy, hysterectomy, hernia repair, and other much needed services in the Philippines, Guyana, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. When we bumped into Dr. Valenzuela recently at the 2015 meeting of the Society for Sexual Medicine, we asked him why he does what he does. Click below to hear what he had to say.




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