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.

About Surgicorps

Surgicorps International provides free surgical and medical care to people in need in developing countries.

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.

Board of Directors

  • Jack Demos
    Vice Chair
  • Michael Brett
    Treasurer
  • Sheryl Lamb
    Secretary
  • Tara Burns
  • Kirsten Calhoun
  • Anne Argenta
  • Christopher Yanakos
  • Michele Misher-Harris

Team

Jack Demos

Jack E. Demos, MD

Founder and Medical Director

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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.

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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 90 missions completed in 22 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.

Denese Olsen

DeNese Olson

Director of Operations and Outreach

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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.

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Experienced in international travel, DeNese made her first trip with Surgicorps in 2015 to Zambia. Since that time, she has served as the Trip Coordinator for several trips. She looks forward to new experiences on future teams and the opportunity to meet others who are passionate about Surgicorps’ mission.

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.

Linda Esposto

Linda Esposto

Executive Director, Retired

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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.

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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.

Gretchen Homison

Administrative Assistant

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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.

FAQs

  • WHAT ARE SURGICORPS INTERNATIONAL’S MISSION AND VALUES?

    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 Values:

    • 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.
    • Locally-based cultural interaction is an important component of Surgicorps trips.
  • DOES SURGICORPS ONLY PERFORM CLEFT PALATE/CLEFT LIP PROCEDURES?

    Cleft lip and palate surgeries do represent a large portion of our cases on some trips. We do however provide a wide range of other types of surgical and medical care. These include hand surgery, treatment of burn scar contractures (on many missions the most common problem seen), treatment of traumatic injuries/deformities (i.e. farm accidents, animal bites, motor vehicle accidents, etc.), dental, vision and dermatology screenings.

  • WHY DOESN’T SURGICORPS SERVE 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.

  • ARE THERE OTHER ORGANIZATIONS THAT DO WORK SIMILAR TO THAT DONE BY SURGICORPS?

    There are many other organizations that provide care similar to that provided by Surgicorps, some smaller than Surgicorps, and others much larger (i.e. Operation Smile). Each of these organizations is unique in their own way, all striving to improve the delivery of health-care throughout the world. For example, Smile Train does not provide surgeries directly to patients but raises funds to support and empower local medical professionals. We run a relatively small number of trips each year, limiting the number of trip participants, and making multi-year commitments to specific countries. This provides what we feel is a special experience for our medical and non-medical team members. Volunteers often describe their relationship to Surgicorps as “family”.

  • WHO CONSTITUTES A SURGICORPS MEDICAL MISSION TEAM?

    Surgicorps International’s medical missions are staffed by medical and non-medical volunteers. The medical team makeup reflects each country’s needs and requests. Members may include Surgeons with differing specialties: Anesthesiologists, CRNAs, Physician Assistants, RNs, Surgical Techs, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Dentists and Dermatologists. Non-medical participants have diverse backgrounds and are a minimum of 16 years of age. They perform a myriad of tasks, including providing comfort in pre- and post-op areas, practicing play therapy, transporting patients, and packing supplies. Volunteers also help to chronicle the trip through photography, blog postings and website reports on the outcome of the journey.

  • HOW MANY PEOPLE PARTICIPATE ON A SURGICORPS MEDICAL MISSION 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 mission members’ costs.

  • HOW DO YOU BECOME A VOLUNTEER?

    Complete and forward a volunteer application to the office that can be found on the volunteer page of the Surgicorps website. Deadline for receipt of the volunteer application is September 1st prior to the year of the team departure (i.e. September 2020 for trip in 2021) unless noted differently on the volunteer page.

  • HOW DOES THE VOLUNTEER SELECTION OCCUR?

    Surgicorps’ has an established process that includes a committee for the selection of each team. All applications are reviewed by the committee and all references verified. Submission of a volunteer application does not guarantee a position. Team configurations are determined by the country’s surgical needs and the host facilities’ operating room capabilities. Selection of volunteer medical staff positions are the first priority. There are a small number of positions for non-medical team members in some of the countries. 

  • HOW ARE SURGICORPS’ TRIPS FUNDED?

    Surgicorps’ trips range in cost from $40,000 to $90,000. The level of expense depends on a variety of issues, including airfare, the size and sophistication of the host country facility (e.g. a fully equipped mission hospital or a more rudimentary facility that lacks even the most basic supplies), and the potential need to financially support patients and their families for transportation, housing, and food. Surgicorps International’s trips are made possible by different types of donations. First, the medical and non-medical participants of the team pay for a majority of their expenses. In most cases, they pay 100% of their travel and accommodations. 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. Annual donated services to Surgicorps are valued at over $400,000. As much as possible, medical supplies are 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 is 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 medical mission participants and in-country patients 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 OTHER WAYS CAN I 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.
    • You can make a difference by contributing items you can purchase on your next trip to the grocery store.View list here. 
    • Host a House Party or invite Surgicorps to make a 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!

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