A Day at the Office
See what a typical Surgicorps mission week is like. We'll take you through pre-departure prep, a week of surgeries, some cultural exchange, and post-op visits.
Surgicorps International provides free surgical and medical care to people in need around the world.
These individuals lack access to the most basic health care including specialty reconstructive surgery for the treatment of cleft lips and palates, severe burn scar deformities, and any number of acquired or congenital defects. In many of these countries, patients must travel by foot for hours — sometimes days — to get medical attention.
Children with congenital deformities are often denied access to education, are subject to peer ridicule, and present a social and financial burden on a family already struggling for existence.
Jack E. Demos, MD
Founder and Medical Director
Jack’s first medical mission experience was in the early 90′s when he accompanied a colleague to the Philippines. Inspired by that trip and certain he could find others to join him to share their time and expertise to change lives on a global scale, Jack founded Surgicorps International in 1994. It’s been over 20 years since that dream became a reality and Jack and Surgicorps are still going strong. Since retiring from his own practice in 2008, he has been a much anticipated presence on every Surgicorps mission. Jack leads the medical teams with over 70 missions completed in 19 countries and too many frequent flyer miles to count! He supports the continued growth of the organization by assessing new trip opportunities, cultivating volunteers and leading by example.
A graduate of University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Jack completed his General Surgery Residency at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, MA, and his Plastic Surgery Residency at Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. He has been Board Certified in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery for more than 35 years. Jack’s service to others was recognized with a Jefferson Award for Volunteerism and he joined his father to accept an honor from the Kingdom of Bhutan in 2012.
Kate joins Surgicorps International as the Executive Director with over 20 years of nonprofit and international experience. After her first trip to Peru at the age of 12, Kate was bitten by the international bug – interested in traveling and learning about other people and cultures. Kate has worked and studied in both Latin America and Southern Africa in addition to extensive worldwide travel. Prior to Surgicorps, Kate worked with a variety of domestic and international nonprofit and government organizations on strategic planning, project development, evaluation, fundraising and resource development. Kate is committed to enhancing the lives of people around the world and advocating on behalf of vulnerable populations. She is excited to join the Surgicorps team to help further the organization’s impact and expand the tradition of excellence in service.
Kate received her master’s degree in International Development from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), University of Pittsburgh. She was honored with a Jefferson Award for Volunteerism for her work with the Pittsburgh Refugee Center and is a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh.
Director of Programs and Logistics
Linda is Surgicorps’ “Can-Do Queen” helping to ensure that volunteers, patients and their families, and host facilities have the best possible experience on every mission. Over the past 10 years, Linda has been a team leader for 34 teams in 7 countries. In 2014, after serving as the organization’s first Executive Director from 2008-2013, she began the transition to a full-time focus on trip management as Director of Programs and Logistics. Her responsibilities include the start-to-finish coordination of all trip logistics as well as volunteer recruitment and training.
Linda joined Dr. Demos’ medical practice in 2004 as the Practice Administrator and quickly became involved with Surgicorps. It was an immediate match for this University of Pittsburgh graduate who had worked many years in the healthcare field as a physical therapist in both clinical and administrative roles. With Surgicorps, Linda was able to combine her healthcare background and organizational and leadership skills with a passion for service and international experiences. Prior to 2004, she was the Chief Corporate Officer with a regional Rehabilitation Services corporation.
DeNese joined the Surgicorps International team in 2014 as Operations Manager. She supports trip coordination, manages volunteers and supplies the energy and organization for Surgicorps’ events and communications. She especially enjoys sharing the organization’s story with groups in the community. Experienced in international travel, DeNese makes her first trip with Surgicorps in 2015 accompanying the team to Zambia. She is grateful and humbled by the opportunity to serve others in need through her work at Surgicorps.
A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, DeNese worked as an International and Domestic Adoption Caseworker for more than 13 years and as a Clinical Education Program Assistant for Chatham University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program.
What are Surgicorps International’s Mission and Beliefs?
Surgicorps International is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide free surgical and medical care to people in need in developing countries.
Surgicorps believes in,
- Providing free surgical and medical care to people in need in developing countries, thus allowing them to become functional members of their society
- Providing individuals the personally rewarding experience of giving back through serving others
- Fostering an exchange of knowledge and experience among medical professionals resulting in improved surgical techniques and patient care
- Remaining non-profit
- That locally-based cultural interaction is an important component of Surgicorps trips
Does Surgicorps only perform cleft palate/cleft lip procedures?
Although cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries represent a large portion of the procedures done by Surgicorps, and although children are the majority of patients, the team also treats adults with cleft lip/palate, and provides a wide range of other types of surgical and medical care including: hand surgery, treatment of burn scar contractures, treatment of traumatic injuries/deformities (i.e. farm accidents, animal bites, motor vehicle accidents).
Why doesn’t Surgicorps concentrate its efforts among those in need in the United States?
In most cases, the surgical procedures provided by Surgicorps are widely available and paid for through private or government-funded insurance in the United States.
How is Surgicorps different from Smile Train or Operation Smile?
Smile Train raises funds to support organizations like Surgicorps, allowing them to do medical missions. The difference between Surgicorps and Operation Smile is primarily size. By running only a limited number of trips versus multiple trips all over the world, limiting the number of trip participants, and making multi-year commitments to specific countries, Surgicorps provides a unique experience for medical and non-medical volunteers. Volunteers often describe their relationship to Surgicorps as “family.”
What constitutes a Surgicorps Medical Mission Team?
Surgicorps International’s medical missions are staffed by medical and non-medical volunteers.
The medical team reflects each country’s needs and requests. Members may include surgeons with differing specialties, medical specialists, anesthetists, physician’s assistants, RNs, surgical techs, CRNAs, OTs, PTs, and dentists.
Non-medical participants have diverse backgrounds and are at least 16 years old. They perform many tasks including providing comfort in pre and post-op areas, practicing play therapy, transporting patients, and packing supplies. They have the opportunity to observe procedures in the operating room. Non-medical volunteers also help to chronicle the trip through photography, blog posts, and website updates.
How many people participate on a Surgicorps team?
Need does not necessarily determine the size of Surgicorps’ teams. The number of medical personnel is directly related to a country’s ability to host the surgeries and their surgical needs. Teams may also be self-limiting because Surgicorps trips are self-funded. In the future, Surgicorps hopes to have the financial resources it needs to subsidize—in full or in part—members of the medical team.
How are Surgicorps’ trips funded?
Surgicorps’ trips range in cost from $40,000 to $90,000. The level of expense depends on variety of issues including the location of the mission and related airfare, the “in-country” facility (e.g. fully-equipped mission hospital such as the one in Guatemala or the most rudimentary facilities that require Surgicorps to bring every piece of equipment and supply it may need), and the potential need to financially support patients and their families for their transportation, housing, and food.
Surgicorps International’s trips are made possible by different types of donations. First, the medical and non-medical participants on the team are all required to pay all or at least part of their expenses. In most cases, they pay 100% of their travel and accommodations. There are times, however, when a medical professional is partially-sponsored by Surgicorps to provide special skill. This does not, however, represent the full cost of the trip for each person. In most cases, team members take unpaid leave to accompany trip or use benefit time at their place of employment. Donated services to Surgicorps total approximately $300,000 each year. As much as possible, medical supplies are also be obtained via in-kind donations from companies or individuals.
Why are unrestricted donations important?
Surgicorps expends 100% of trip volunteer donations on the mission. There’s never any surplus, although overages in medical supplies will be retained in the host country for later use in local hospitals. Surgicorps must close a funding gap of between $10,000 and $20,000 per trip. The ability to provide the highest quality of services and the safest experience for its mission participants depends on the generosity of individuals and businesses giving unrestricted donations each year.
How can I stay up-to-date of Surgicorps’ latest trip?
I’m unable to volunteer for a Surgicorps medical mission. What are other ways I can help?
- Make a contribution. Unrestricted donations are applied to the area of greatest need. Donors may also make designated contributions to a special trip and/or purpose.
- Donate Items. You can make a difference by contributing items you can purchase on your next trip to the grocery store—Ibuprofen, alcohol wipes, etc.
- Host a House Party or invite Surgicorps to make presentation at your church, school or community meeting.
- Refer potential volunteers—medical and non-medical—to Surgicorps.
- Attend a Packing Party at the Surgicorps office
- Attend one of Surgicorps’ annual fundraising events and bring a friend!