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’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 25 years since that dream became a reality and Jack and Surgicorps are still going strong.
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.
DeNese joined the Surgicorps International team in 2014 as Operations Manager and now serves as the Director of Operations and Outreach. She helps Surgicorps realize its mission by developing, leading and supporting the organization's operations, communications and outreach. She also plays a key role in the recruitment and management of 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.
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.
DeNese likes to spend time with her family (husband, Matt, and 3 grown children) and enjoys hiking, reading, cooking and the ongoing practice of mindfulness meditation. She is grateful and humbled by the opportunity to serve others in need through her work at Surgicorps.
As Executive Director, Linda oversaw the growth and development of the organization. She retired from her staff position at Surgicorps but continues her commitment to ensuring the safe and successful completion of Surgicorps’ annual trips, the development of the exploratory program and as the trip leader for Vietnam. Linda has led over 60 teams in 12 countries completing life-changing surgeries.
Gretchen joined the Surgicorps staff in 2019, serving in the office as the part-time Administrative Assistant. After ten very rewarding years, Gretchen stepped away from her position as a preschool teacher so that she may support Surgicorps’ mission of changing lives around the world. She is inspired daily not only the by the volunteers and Surgicorps staff that carry out the mission trips, but by the stories of the resilient and grateful patients whose lives are touched first by hardship, then by hope. She is grateful to be part of the Surgicorps family.
Surgicorps believes in:
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).
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 a 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.
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.