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 disadvantaged individuals 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
In 1994, Jack created Surgicorps International as a way to help those less fortunate and provide opportunities for others to do so. Jack’s first medical mission experience was in the early 90′s when he accompanied a colleague to the Philippines. Now after more than 40 trips, he continues to connect with facilities in new countries, lead teams of dedicated volunteers and gain personal gratitude for giving back.
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 25 years.
In 2004, Linda joined the Jack E. Demos medical practice as Practice Administrator. She became involved with Surgicorps and currently is responsible for the everyday operations, and coordination of each mission trip. Linda focuses on trip logistics and volunteer recruitment and training. According to Jack, she is the “Can-Do Queen" for Surgicorps as she routinely choreographs medical mission to the delight of volunteers, patients and host facilities.
Linda is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to working with Jack, she was the Chief Corporate Officer with a regional Rehabilitation Services corporation.
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 disadvantaged individuals in developing countries.
Surgicorps believes in,
- Providing free surgical and medical care to disadvantaged individuals 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!