Today is December 17th and I returned from The Divino Nino Foundation’s medical mission 5 days ago. Going to the Dominican Republic to operate on the needy is an eye opening experience. My colleagues and I evaluated and operated on 155 patients. Their problems ranged from poor dental hygiene to advanced inoperable breast cancer. Ironically both of these conditions, though extreme, could have been prevented from reaching the stages that we saw in the clinic there. Small children were seen with horrific deformities from burns and trauma which are less common in the U.S. due to the safety requirements in our building and manufacturing industries.
Our days on the mission were long but there was an incredible energy among our group. We were Pediatricians, Internists, Surgeons, Dentists and Physician Assistants. However some of the people who worked by our sides had no medical training. These members helped prepare the patients for their treatments, organized post operative prescriptions, translated and confirmed local follow up for the patients. There was something for every member of our team to do, and when we finished our final case there was a unanimous agreement that we would all be back to do it again in the near future.
The Divino Nino Foundation President is Juan Romero, also known as Rubio, of Cafe Rubio in Queens. His dedication to improving the health of the children in the small village that he grew up in inspired me. He and his assistant Fabiola became very close with my wife and me during the mission. After we finished at the hospital they took us to visit with some of the children and their families that they had organized complicated surgeries for in the U.S. the previous year. Each of the children had spent 6 months in Queens while undergoing multiple procedures due to Rubio’s foundation. Seeing their reunion in D.R. made me realize what it means to help those in need and how no matter what your professional background is, we can all help others less fortunate than ourselves. I think that in today’s world we have a tendency to put ourselves first and become fixated with “why me” and “why this economy” etc., but if we all took a few moments every morning to think about some of the incredible suffering that others endure I think we could all find ways to contribute our strengths.
With the holidays here I’ll be throwing an annual party, as I’m sure many of you will as well, but this year I will be showing my slides from this mission and introducing Rubio to those in the room. Next year I plan to turn the party into a fundraiser for my charity, Vanity 4 Humanity, and The Divino Nino Foundation so together we can continue this work for years to come.
Have a happy, healthy and safe holiday season and when it’s over don’t forget that many others didn’t.